BBC | 6 September 2010
Trade agreement backed by MEPs
MEPs have broadly welcomed new safeguard measures being brought in as part of a free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea.
The agreement was signed in October 2009 and is expected to come into force by the end of the year.
As part of the agreement new measures will be brought in to protect individual EU industries from any disproportionate rise in imports caused by the agreement.
There is a risk in rapidly rising imports from South Korea caused by the lower customs duties applied.
Under the proposed legislation, the safeguards can be enacted following requests by any member state, the Commission or the EU-Korea Domestic Advisory Group.
Opening the debate on 6 September 2010, the Parliament’s rapporteur on the agreement, Spanish centre-right MEP Pablo Bidegain urged MEPs to support an amendment that could also allow the European Parliament or associations representing at least 25% of the industry to enact the safeguards.
An amendment has also been tabled by the European Parliament’s Trade Committee to set the maximum length of an investigation into whether or not to enact the safeguards at 200 days, instead of the six months proposed by the Commission.
During a parliamentary debate in February 2010, the agreement was criticised by many MEPs, particular as regards its potential impact on the EU car industry.
However the Commission says that the deal could be worth up to €19bn ($28bn, £17bn) to EU exporters.
Swedish liberal MEP Olle Schmidt condemned MEPs who were against the agreement, saying that free trade reduced global poverty and increased liberty. He said that critics were "barking up the wrong tree".
The amendments were approved at the daily voting session on 7 September. However a final vote on the safeguard measures was postponed until October in order to reach agreement with the Council of Ministers.