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EU Parliament OKs free trade pact with S. Korea

 The European Parliament approved a free trade pact with South Korea on Thursday, bringing it one step closer to coming into force this July, diplomatic sources said.

   The trade accord, adopted in Strasbourg, France, during the European Parliament's plenary session, is the most ambitious free trade pact the European Union (EU) has so far negotiated, and the first of its kind with an Asian country.

   The European Parliament also passed an implementation bill for emergency safeguard measures to limit South Korean imports if they soar in the eurozone after the bilateral free trade pact is put into effect.

   Seoul and Brussels signed their bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) on Oct. 6 following two-and-a-half years of negotiations, agreeing to put the pact into effect starting on July 1.

   The pact must be ratified by the 27 member states of the EU before taking full effect. The deal also still needs to be ratified by South Korea's parliament in order to go into effect as was scheduled.

   The South Korean government welcomed the approval of the pact, expressing hope that it will be ratified by the National Assembly as soon as possible in order to become effective from July.

   Hailing the approval, the country's ruling party called for starting discussions to ratify the deal, while the opposition parties claimed that thorough examinations on the impact of the deal are required prior to ratification and that following measures should be implemented as such.

   The government submitted the trade pact to the parliament in October last year for approval, but opposition parties have boycotted reviewing free trade pacts, including a similar deal with the United States.

   Earlier this week, South Korea's main opposition party agreed to end a two-month parliamentary boycott that has floated dozens of legislative bills, including free trade deals with the U.S. and the EU.

   The European Commission (EC) also welcomed the approval of the free trade deal with South Korea by the European Parliament in its statement. The EC was entrusted by 27 members of the EU to hold negotiations on the deal with South Korea.

   Overall, the South Korea-EU deal is expected to boost bilateral trade by as much as 20 percent in the long term, according to earlier estimates by the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP).

   In 2009, two-way trade totaled US$78.8 billion with South Korea enjoying a surplus of $14.38 billion. In 2008, their bilateral trade reached $98.4 billion.

   Under the deal, Seoul and Brussels would eliminate or phase out tariffs on 96 percent of EU goods and 99 percent of South Korean goods within three years after the accord takes effect. They have also agreed to abolish tariffs on most industrial goods within five years of the deal taking effect.

   The accord also permits duty drawback, which allows the tariffs levied on parts used by a manufacturer to make a product such as a car to be refunded when the final product is exported.

   But the deal includes a provision that caps refundable tariffs should there be "dramatic changes in foreign outsourcing" within five years of the accord taking effect.

   On the issue of rules of origin, both sides agreed on the level of allowable foreign contents at 45 percent. In the cases of auto parts and some other products, the level is set at 50 percent.

   One of the most sensitive issues has been auto trade. After much wrangling, the two sides agreed to eliminate tariffs on cars with an engine displacement of more than 1.5 liters within three years. Tariffs for smaller cars with an engine displacement of less than 1.5 liters would be lifted after five years.

   South Korea currently imposes an 8 percent import duty on European cars, while the EU imposes a 10 percent duty on autos from South Korea.

 (Yonhap News)

<한글뉴스>

유럽의회, 한-EU FTA 동의안 가결

    (스트라스부르=연합뉴스) 김영묵 특파원 = 유럽의회가 17일 프랑스  스트라스부 르 의사당에서 본회의를 열어 오는 7월1일 잠정발효 예정인 한국-유럽연합(EU) 자유무역협정(FTA) 동의안을 승인했다.

    본회의에 상정된 한-EU FTA 동의안은 소관 상임위원회인 국제통상위원회(INTA) 표결 때와 마찬가지로 찬성 465, 반대 128, 기권 19의 압도적 찬성으로 가결됐다.

    지난 8일 INTA에서는 한-EU FTA 동의안을 찬성 21, 반대 4의 압도적 찬성으로 가결한 뒤 본회의에 회부했다.

    유럽의회의 협정 동의안 승인으로 EU 쪽에서는 한-EU FTA의 잠정발효를 위한 내 부 절차가 완전히 마무리됐으며 "내부 절차가 완료됐음"을 한국 정부에 통보하기만 하면 된다.

    협정 동의안 보고자(Rapporteur)인 로버트 스터디(영국) 의원은 표결 직전 마지 막 발언을 요청해 "한-EU FTA는 양측이 '윈-윈'할 수 있는 자유무역협정이자 유럽 기업들에 기회를 열어주는 '환상적인' 협정이다. 권한이 강화된 유럽의회로서도 한- EU FTA를 동의하는 것은 '대단한 업적'이 될 것"이라면서 동의안 승인을 주문했다.

 유럽의회는 이날 한-EU FTA 동의안과 함께 협정 발효 이후 한국산 제품의 수입이 급증할 경우 역내 산업의 보호장치가 되는 양자 세이프가드(긴급수입제한) 이행법안 도 표결 처리했다.

    그동안 각 이해당사자의 의견을 반영해 정치그룹 간에 충분한 협의가 이뤄진 덕 택에 양자 세이프가드 이행법안 역시 찬성 495, 반대 16, 기권 75의 압도적  찬성으 로 가결됐다.

    비탈 모레이라 INTA 위원장은 양자 세이프가드 이행법안에 대해 "세이프가드는 한-EU FTA를 훼손하지 않는 장치"라며 "또 자동차 업계 등 협정 반대론자들의  반발 을 순화시키는 데도 세이프가드가 일정 부분 역할을 했다"고 설명했다.

    한편, 한국 정부는 작년 10월25일 국회에 한-EU FTA 비준동의안을 제출한  상태다.
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