The U.S. Government Accountability Office on Monday released a report assessing the impact of the U.S. free trade agreements that were negotiated and went into effect with Singapore, Chile, Jordan and Morocco, “International Trade: Four Free Trade Agreements GAO Reviewed Have Resulted in Commercial Benefits, but Challenges on Labor and Environment Remain.”
While varying in details, the FTAs have all eliminated import taxes, lowered obstacles to U.S. services such as banking, increased protection of U.S. intellectual property rights abroad, and strengthened rules to ensure government fairness and transparency. Overall merchandise trade between the United States and partner countries has substantially grown, with increases ranging from 42 percent to 259 percent. Services trade, foreign direct investment, and U.S. affiliate sales in the largest partners also rose.
The U.S. trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea will also eliminate import taxes, lower obstacles to U.S. services, increase protection for U.S. intellectual property rights abroad and strengthen rules to ensure government fairness and transparency. History, in the form of a GAO report, tells us those changes bring substantial economic benefits.
Oh, but challenges remain!
Challenges always remain. That’s their nature. Members of Congress who always point to remaining challenges do so to support continued inaction. And as the GAO study proves, inaction is bad for the United States. FTAs have accomplished what they were meant to accomplish: improved access for U.S. products, more exports and economic growth for the United States.
The United States is in a recession, free trade agreements stimulate economic growth and jobs, and yet Congress refuses to act on the Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Challenges remain, but here’s one that Congress can speedily overcome: Enact the agreements.
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