Roh Stresses Importance of Korea-Japan FTA
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Roh Stresses Importance of Korea-Japan FTA"
(By Yonhap) The Korea Times
It is in a way a pity that reports on President Roh Moo-hyun during his stay in Japan was sometimes not treated appropriately by the local media in terms of priority and volume due to another event which in the end did not even take place. Reporters with sufficient knowledge of the area were busy chasing the developments of the planned arrival of a North Korean cargo-passenger ship Man Gyong Bong-92 at Niigata. The North Korean ship cancelled its plan at the very last moment which itself has become a focus of curiosity, but if it were as some say that the sole purpose of North Korea from the outset was to degrade the significance of President Roh's visit to Japan, it was indeed a job well done.
Nevertheless, the visit by President Roh was generally very well received by Japanese people.
One reason was undoubtedly the fact that Mr Roh did not push too much on accusations against Japan's behaviors in the early part of the last century, which had always seemed to be the most significant, if not the only, subject of bilateral talks. In the past, the apparent conflict had been amplified by the attitudes of indolent reporters in both countries, who would simply recite the stereotyped convictions which always seemed to arouse naive readers' emotional responses.
Progress was made in the political arena. In addition to comparing notes of their recent but separate meetings with President Bush, the two leaders confirmed their accord, with perhaps few and subtle differences regarding specific issues commonly seen in a productive relationship.
On the economic front, commencement of a shuttle service between Tokyo's Haneda airport and Seoul's Gimpo airport was officially announced. The plan had been on the table for quite a while, waiting for a senior level political decision. Where presently it takes six hours from downtown Tokyo to central Seoul using Narita and Incheon airports, the trip would be reduced to four hours as a result of utilizing the domestic-only airports in both countries for the new service.
Perhaps not as sensational as flying airplanes, but a very important result out of the talks was the leaders' confirmation on the determination to pursue FTA.
To put it bluntly, FTA is not everything for everyone. There are inevitably people who feel they would be deprived of their vested interests. A strong political willpower is necessary to pursue such an arrangement with other countries, which must also be based on a careful assessment of the benefit of the people. But there are already 150 or so of such arrangements covering the globe, and the number is increasing at an accelerating rate. In fact, it is only Japan and Korea among major economies not taking a part in the network of FTA's, who each have only very recently signed a quasi-FTA, between Singapore and Chile respectively. For whatever the cause, Japan and Korea are the two left way behind this new global framework, risking to lose a significant share of the wealth the new world order is prepared to produce. It would be a good opportunity, to say the least, for both countries to go through the exercise of extensive and arduous negotiation to bring about an effective FTA.
Japan and Korea are the two significant countries on this part of the globe, sharing principles as well as economic strength. If not for every individual with mixed interests, it is for both peoples as a whole that an FTA between the two economies is so important, to catch up with the global current of economic cooperation, so as to seek further growth for both countries.