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South Korea's parliament dissolves

South Korea's parliament failed to ratify a free trade deal with the United States before the legislature's four-year term expired today.

world Updated: May 29, 2008 12:32 IST

South Korea's parliament failed to ratify a free trade deal with the United States before the legislature's four-year term expired Thursday, a lawmaker said.

Opposition parties had boycotted the National Assembly since Monday, demanding President Lee Myung-Bak's government renegotiate a separate deal allowing the resumption of US beef imports.

That deal is a pre-condition for Washington's approval of the free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, which some analysts say could eventually boost annual trade between the two nations by 20 billion dollars.

"Sadly, we failed to ratify the FTA in this parliament," said Ahn Sang-Soo, the outgoing floor leader of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP).

"We must not waste time any longer. I plead with the United Democratic Party to cooperate and approve the FTA in early months of the incoming legislature," he said, referring to the main opposition party.

The South Korean and US governments refuse to renegotiate the controversial beef pact, which has led to mounting protests over fears of mad cow disease.

The ruling party said it would announce the resumption of US beef imports later Thursday despite the protests.
The new parliament convenes Friday but incoming legislators have to repeat procedures to ratify the FTA that have already taken five months.