The European Parliament approved the EU-Korea trade agreement today, with 465 votes in favor, 128 against and 19 abstentions. The agreement will take effect on July 1, 2011, immediately removing the vast majority of Korea’s tariffs on manufactured goods (which average 8 percent) imported from European Union countries. You can read all about it here: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=680
This approval is a notable development, because it is the first time that the European Parliament exercised co-decision powers on trade agreements. Prior to the Lisbon Treaty, approval of trade agreements rested entirely within the Council. Now, the European Parliament must approve all trade agreements signed by the EU – putting them much closer to the U.S. model, where Congress must approve our trade agreements. Many speculated that this agreement might face a closer vote for approval in the EU Parliament. Still, 76 percent voted to approve –- a percentage far higher than most agreements receive in the U.S. Congress. The European Parliament obviously knows what manufacturers in America know: Removing foreign trade barriers is a boon for exports, jobs and economic growth.
The majority of the U.S. Congress knows this too, and wants to approve the three pending trade agreements we have with Korea, Colombia and Panama. Of course, before our Congress can approve trade agreements, they need the President to send them up. Our pending agreements have been awaiting Congressional approval since 2007. The President has indicated he will quickly transmit the U.S.-Korea FTA to Congress with an eye toward seeking approval in a matter of weeks – but that leaves Colombia and Panama languishing.
Together, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) estimates the three agreements are worth more than $13 billion in new U.S. exports. The majority of those exports will be manufactured goods. Tens of thousands of American jobs will be created and sustained as a result of these trade agreements. They remove tariff and non-tariff barriers, open markets for our goods, give our manufactured products preferential treatment. The longer we hesitate, the more our competitors win our market share as they approve their own trade agreements. The time to move on trade is now.