- - Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PORTUGAL

EU: Portugal’s bailout is not lenient

LISBON |Portugal’s bailout terms are ‘severe’ and no more lenient than those Greece and Ireland received, a European Union official said Wednesday in an effort to dodge any claims of double standards.

In announcing an imminent $115 billion bailout, Portugal’s caretaker prime minister said he had won easier terms than those imposed on the other two countries last year.


The full details have yet to be revealed, but a softening of conditions could increase calls to revise Greece and Ireland’s deals.

“He sold his highlights of the agreement,” said an EU official about Jose Socrates’ announcement on Portuguese television late Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with the organization’s policy. “You have to take into account that they are in an election campaign.”

Portugal has fought during more than two weeks of negotiations to escape bailout terms that might hurt its efforts to restore economic growth, with a senior member of the governing Socialist Party saying the previous two bailouts had been “a huge failure.”

SOUTH KOREA

Parliament approves trade pact with EU

SEOUL | South Korea’s parliament Wednesday ratified a sweeping free-trade agreement with the European Union, giving European firms a head start over the United States in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The deal is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Europe’s parliament approved it in February.

The ruling Grand National Party, which holds the majority in the 299-seat parliament, pushed forward the free-trade bill in the absence of opposition legislators. The pact was ratified in a vote of 163-1.

Opposition parties called for a delay in ratifying the deal, insisting the government should set up safeguards to protect local industries and farmers.

The main opposition Democratic Party had insisted it would not approve the legislation until there had been a full study of the impact on the economy.

The trade accord is the most ambitious the EU has negotiated with an outside partner, and the first with an Asian nation. The two sides will cut 98 percent of customs duties within five years, apart from those on a few Korean farm products.

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