South Korean Assembly ratifies FTA with China after long delay

(From Joongang Daily)

Subsidies for farmers was at heart of debate that delayed passage

South Korea’s National Assembly approved Monday a long-stalled free trade agreement with China, Korea’s largest trading partner that has a market with a population of 1.3 billion.

The S.K. National Assembly ratifies Monday the Korea-China Free Trade Agreement. Out the 265 lawmakers who attended the vote, 196 supported it, 33 opposed it and 36 abstained. [NEWSIS]

The S.K. National Assembly ratifies Monday the Korea-China Free Trade Agreement. Out the 265 lawmakers who attended the vote, 196 supported it, 33 opposed it and 36 abstained. [NEWSIS]

The ruling and opposition parties passed the motion to ratify the Korea-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA), with 265 lawmakers participating. One hundred and ninety-six voted in favor of the FTA, with 33 against and 36 abstentions.

The pact was approved with a 1.6 trillion won ($1.38 billion) compensation package, which includes tax breaks and subsidies for the country’s farmers and fishermen for expected losses.

Once put into effect, the free trade deal will eliminate tariffs on $73 billion in Korea’s exports to China and $42 billion in its imports from China.

The National Assembly on Monday also ratified bilateral FTAs with Vietnam and New Zealand.

The Korea-China FTA, expected to eventually eliminate tariffs on about 90 percent of goods traded between the two countries, was finalized in November 2014. China and Korea officially signed the deal on June 1, and it will enter into force once the legislatures on both sides approve it.

Since giving her OK, President Park Geun-hye pressured the legislature to ratify the FTA with China as soon as possible, ideally before the end of this year, backed by the full support from the ruling Saenuri Party.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), however, has demanded more extensive compensation for the farmers and fishermen, which has delayed the process for months. The two parties and the government began operating a trilateral conference in October to discuss compensation measures, though no progress was made until Monday.

The lawmakers and the government managed to produce a last-minute 10-point agreement Mondaymorning, just hours before the voting session. The agreement included a cooperation fund worth 1 trillion won meant to appease dissatisfied farmers and fishermen and larger subsidies.

Kim Jung-hoon, the Saenuri’s chief policymaker, and his NPAD counterpart Choi Jae-cheon negotiated the deal with Deputy Economic Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan and Trade Minister Yoon Sang-jick. The ruling party and the NPAD each held a general assembly of lawmakers Monday and decided to accept it.

The plan to create a cooperation fund of 1 trillion won centered on the idea that private companies, public enterprises and agricultural and fisheries cooperatives will voluntarily offer 100 billion won in annual contributions for the next 10 years to support farmers and fishermen.  Read more



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