Last night, Congress passed free trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia, an important step toward opening dynamic and fast growing markets. After waiting for several years, these agreements will help level the playing field and allow U.S. companies to export more goods and services abroad, which will lead directly to more jobs at home.
These agreements will remove existing barriers to free trade in those countries, such as tariffs, regulatory barriers, and red tape. Currently, if a U.S. company wanted to sell a product in South Korea or Colombia, it had to pay an average tariff of around 12 percent; in Panama, the tariff was 7 percent. While American companies have been paying tariffs, many of our most tenacious competitors from the European Union and Canada have implemented trade agreements and are gaining market share at the expense of U.S companies.
Consider the projected impact of just the three free trade agreements passed yesterday. With South Korea and Colombia growing twice as fast as the U.S., and Panama growing three times as fast, free access to their markets is essential. Last year, even with trade barriers still in place, GE earned $2 billion in revenues from those three markets. Freer access will yield even faster sales growth that will directly and positively impact job growth here at home. The White House estimates that the South Korean free trade agreement will support more than 70,000 American jobs, boosting U.S. exports by up to $11 billion.
GE will continue to highlight the importance of free trade agreements like the ones passed today and advocate for passage of future, similar deals. Here in the U.S., we have the world’s best companies and employees, but 95 percent of consumers live outside the U.S. Reaching them—on the same terms as our toughest competitors—will benefit us all.