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Ratify Korea trade pact

November 18, 2009

The South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement should be ratified, and soon, because of the initialing last month of a similar agreement between South Korea and the European Union.

The EU-Korean free-trade agreement hasn’t yet been formally signed or ratified, but it will be. Americans have their own agreement already in our pockets. It was signed on June 30, 2007. It awaits ratification, but has been stalled in Congress for more than two years. Americans could have their agreement before the Europeans have theirs, and have a trade advantage — if Congress acts.

If not, the trade advantage will go to the Europeans.

This is not like an agreement with Peru or Panama. This is a big one. South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world. It’s a country that makes some of the best flat-screen TVs on the market, and can afford products made by American workers.

Both agreements, America’s and Europe’s, reduce more than 90 percent of industrial-goods tariffs to zero over a few years. Agriculture is more difficult. Korea will continue to protect its rice, and it will only slowly reduce its high tariff on U.S. beef. Still, Korea’s barriers against U.S. food products will fall substantially.

There are winners and losers on both sides when trade is made freer, but overall the gains are much bigger than the losses — on both sides. History is clear on this.

In Puget Sound country, we have a regional interest, and one that should transcend partisan loyalties. We were reminded of this recently when we received a joint news release of Rep. Adam Smith, Democrat, and Rep. Dave Reichert, Republican. They disagree on a number of things, but not on this.

For some Americans, whether to compete in the world is a big question. Here, there is no question. We made our decision long ago — at Boeing and Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft and Costco, the Aerospace Machinists and the Longshore workers, in our universities and our ports. Trade is good, and we are for it.

Get it done.