According to recently-released data from a conference held last year, when China showed its intention to seek a free trade agreement with Korea, the U.S. gave a strong warning and the Korean government backed away from the deal, going with the U.S. instead.
The behind-the-scenes moves by China, the United States, and South Korea surrounding the free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations that took place last year were revealed at the "5th International Economic Committee Agenda" meeting held on September 12, 2005, and reported by Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) on August 9.
"Until now, regarding the South Korea-U.S. FTA, the government claimed that Seoul first demanded it, but the data shows the U.S. was also part of restraining China," said Rep. Sim, adding, "The background of the start of the Korea-U.S. FTA negotiation has begun to be revealed little by little."
Rep. Sim said she also wanted to research the purpose behind the U.S.’s signing of FTAs with other nations. Washington so far has concluded FTAs with 15 nations, including Israel, Jordan, and Australia.
Why the U.S. has been proactive about pursuing an FTA with South Korea, she said, "is not just because Korea accepted four preconditions. A more important factor is the existence of China. As China emerged as a variable, the U.S. might have decided to start negotiations for the strategic reason of maintaining leadership in East Asia." She means that not only economic reasons but also diplomatic and security factors played an important role in the start of South Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations. The four preconditions South Korea accepted were to again accept U.S. beef products after a ban due to mad cow disease in the U.S., an elimination of the requirement that South Korean films be shown a certain percentage of the time on domestic screens, a revision of the import automobile taxation schedule, and concessions regarding the pricing of pharmaceuticals.
In the case of the alleged comptetition between U.S. and China, the government unilaterally sided with the U.S. because of some ’pro-U.S.’ politicians, according to Rep. Sim.
"Just as the U.S. and China made their [separate] strategic approaches to Korea, so should the government prepare independent strategies between Beijing and Washington. However, the trade minister went to Washington to seek advice. It is flunkeyism," she said.
"In the end, the South Korea-U.S. FTA is a product of the strategic necessities of Washington and South Korea’s pro-U.S. forces who want to find our national interest in a relationship with the U.S.," he said. In connection with future South Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations, he said, "Since these new facts were revealed, we should discuss the negotiations from the starting point again."