South Korea and the United States have agreed to set up a service and investment committee to reduce any fallout from the bilateral free trade pact that may go into effect next year, the government said Monday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Seoul's trade minister Kim Jong-hoon and his U.S. counterpart Ron Kirk signed two letters that aim to address concerns related to the free trade agreement (FTA).
The pact, known as the KORUS FTA, was signed in June 2007 and modified late last year. It has been approved by U.S. lawmakers, with South Korea's National Assembly expected to vote on the issue in the near future.
The opposition parties have called for a delay in ratification, but the ruling Grand National Party wants to vote on the issue as soon as possible.
The committee, along with a working group to address challenges facing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), could also touch on a controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISD) system that is part of the FTA.
The ISD is a provision that allows foreign investors to bring trade dispute claims directly against the government of the co-signatory before an international panel of arbitrators.
Seoul and Washington, in addition, said the committee and working group will be tasked to work together to address any problems that may arise and to protect business and investment interests.
The SME working group will hold its first session within 90 days of the FTA going into effect, with regular sessions every year. This group will be tasked with examining challenges facing small companies and to find joint solutions.
The ministry, meanwhile, claimed that because the two countries plan to take active measures to reduce negative repercussions, South Korean lawmakers should try to speed up the ratification process so the pact can go into effect on Jan. 1.