- Opposition lawmakers go to extreme lengths to try to stop the vote
- The US ratified the deal last month
- South Korea's governing party says it will boost GDP
- Opponents of the agreement say it will hurt Korean farmers
Despite scuffles and a tear gas attack in parliament, South Korea's governing party rammed through a free trade agreement between Seoul and Washington Tuesday after painstaking weeks of negotiations.
An opposition lawmaker threw a tear gas canister shortly before the vote in his effort to stop the vote but failed as the bill was passed by a vote of 151 to 7.
The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) surprised lawmakers with a vote two days before it was expected on the hotly debated agreement, which was waiting final approval from the Korean National Assembly before it goes into effect.
Washington ratified the agreement with South Korea in October, adding pressure on Seoul to pass the trade deal.
Opposition parties resisted for weeks by blocking conference rooms so the government could not get committee approval for the bill. In the end, the speaker introduced the bill directly on the floor of parliament.
Civic groups and opposition lawmakers opposed the ratification of the deal, saying South Korea will lose its economic sovereignty.
By Seoul's estimates, the trade deal will boost the country's gross domestic product by 5.6%. However, the farming sector is expected to suffer a loss of anywhere up to 2.28 trillion won (nearly $2 billion) in production, according to the Korea Rural Economic Institute.
The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the lowering of Korean tariffs and tariff-rate quotas on goods alone will add $10 billion to $12 billion to annual U.S. GDP and around $10 billion to annual merchandise exports to Korea.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea welcomed the ratification of the bill.
"With the ratification of this historic free trade agreement, transparency, consistency and predictability will become greater strengths of the Korean economy, and will help draw many more investors to Korea," said Amy Jackson, president of AMCHAM Korea.