U.S., South Korea Trade Pact Opposed

The U.S. and South Korea signed a landmark free-trade pact, marking the biggest such agreement for the U.S. in nearly 15 years. And it happened just hours before President Bush's fast-track authority to negotiate such an agreement ran out. But there's opposition to ratifying the deal in both countries.

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Also this weekend, U.S. and South Korean officials signed the biggest free trade agreement in nearly 15 years. But there's opposition to ratifying the deal in both countries, as NPR's Louisa Lim reports.

Unidentified Woman: (Korean spoken)

LOUISA LIM: The signing of the deal was big news in South Korea. It happened just hours before President Bush's fast track authority to negotiate such an agreement ran out. Ninety-five percent of tariffs on consumer and industrial products will be wiped out in three years. Experts predict two-way trades will expand substantially, boosting the South Korean economy by 6 percent over a decade. At the signing ceremony, U.S. Trade representative Susan Schwab was triumphant.

Susan Schwab SUSAN SCHWAB (Deputy U.S. Trade Representative): I think the turnout this morning is a testament to the historic importance of this free trade agreement, not just as a milestone in the bilateral relationship but also as a symbol of the future promise of global trade.

LIM: But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the deal a missed opportunity because of non-tariff barriers to the car industry. She says Democrats cannot support the current deal. Other lawmakers say South Korea must fully open its markets to American (unintelligible).

Unidentified Group: (Chanting) Down, down (unintelligible).

LIM: In the South Korean capital, large street demonstrations have reflected widespread opposition. Chi Heung Kim(ph) of the Korean Alliance Against the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement says jobs created are likely to be a regular part-time employment, while many other jobs will be lost.

Mr. Chi Heung Kim (Korean Alliance Against the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement): Many sectors will be hit, including the service sector and the pharmaceutical sector and the, of course, the manufacturing sector as well. But the most hard hit would be the agricultural sector.

LIM: And the sworn upcoming presidential elections in both countries could further complicate and delay the ratification of the deal.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.

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