President Lee Myung-bak has called for quick parliamentary approval of South Korea's free trade agreement with the United States, saying Tuesday that the country should not miss a chance to finalize a deal he said the "world is envious of."
In particular, Lee urged opposition lawmakers to set aside partisan interests and support the pact.
"In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers, even if they were opposed to the Korea-U.S. FTA, worked actively in moving the ratification process forward and therefore, the process was able to be finalized swiftly," Lee said during a Cabinet meeting, according to presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha.
Lee told Cabinet ministers to try to convince opposition lawmakers of the deal's benefits.
"As the world is envious of the Korea-U.S. FTA, we should not miss this chance," Lee said.
Lee also instructed related ministers to make greater efforts to promote the economic effects of the pact, including that the deal is beneficial not only to conglomerates, but also to smaller firms, according to the spokesman.
The South Korean government is stepping up efforts to get the trade deal to pass through the National Assembly as early as possible after Congress gave its final approval of the deal in an unusually swift move during Lee's state visit to the U.S. last week.
Lee made a similar appeal when he met with senior ruling party lawmakers later in the day.
"If the Korea-U.S. FTA takes effect at this time of economic difficulty, it can serve as an opportunity for the farming industry to make a fresh leap," Lee said during the meeting, asking for swift handling of the bill, according to spokesman Park.
Opposition lawmakers boycotted the meeting.
The deal, first signed in 2007 and then modified last year to address U.S. concern about its auto industry, has been stalled at a parliamentary trade committee in South Korea, as the main opposition Democratic Party claims the deal favors the U.S. and should be renegotiated.
Beside the pact, a package of 14 related bills need approval before the deal can take effect in South Korea.
Seoul and Washington hope to have the trade accord come into effect in January next year.