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S. Korea's opposition rejects President's offer for renegotiation of key clause in trade pact with U.S.

(Xinhua)

08:32, November 17, 2011

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's main opposition Democratic Party on Wednesday rejected President Lee Myung-bak's offer to renegotiate a controversial clause in a free trade agreement with the United States after the deal gets legislative approval.

The move, at least temporarily, casts clouds over the future of the contentious trade accord Washington already endorsed.

In a last-ditch effort by Lee to break the deadlock over the stalled trade bill, vehemently opposed by opposition lawmakers, Lee offered in a rare visit to the parliament Tuesday to propose renegotiation over the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISD) clause three months after the deal takes effect.

For that to happen, the parliament would have to endorse the deal and officially request additional adjustments, Lee said.

The clause allows U.S. investors to settle disputes with the South Korean government at international courts, which critics say will hurt the country's sovereignty in policy-making.

Liberal and left-leaning opposition parties said the president' s surprising proposal is "meaningful" progress, but they still would not budge.

"Our position remains that the free trade agreement should be renegotiated before the parliament endorses it," Lee Yong-sup, spokesman for the Democratic Party, said in a briefing, adding " the president's remarks are not enough to change the party platform."

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