Free trade, free markets and political intervention in U.S. trade

In “Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the 108th Congress,” Daniel Griswold, director of the Cato Institute’s Centre for Trade Policy Studies, examines 23 key trade votes in the 108th U.S. Congress and finds that few members vote consistently for free trade.

Griswold says if we define trade to include opposition to trade subsidies as well as trade barriers, members of Congress can be classified into four categories: free traders, who oppose both trade barriers and subsidies; internationalists, who oppose barriers and support subsidies; isolationists, who support barriers and oppose subsidies; and interventionists, who support barriers and subsidies.

According to Griswold:

  • In the House of Representatives, 22 Republicans and 3 Democrats opposed barriers and subsidies in more than two-thirds of the votes they cast.

  • Of the other members of the House, 157 voted as internationalists, 2 as isolationists and 16 as interventionists. The rest had mixed voting records.

  • As for the Senate, 15 Republicans and 9 Democrats voted as free traders.

  • Of the other Senators, 24 voted as internationalists, 15 as interventionists, and none as isolationists; the rest had mixed voting records

    The complete report contains detailed data on each congressman and senator, their respective votes and the issues upon which they voted. Griswold says the purpose of the study is to articulate a higher standard for free trade and to measure the performance of the most recent Congress according to that standard.

    Griswold concludes that members of Congress do not need to choose between anti-trade, anti-subsidy isolationism and pro-trade, pro-subsidy internationalism. He says they can choose to vote for a coherent programme to liberalise trade and eliminate subsidies – in sum, to let Americans enjoy the freedom and prosperity of a seamless free market undistorted by government intervention.

    Source: Daniel Griswold, Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the 108th Congress, Cato Institute, Centre for Trade Policy Studies, March 16, 2005.

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    For more on Tariffs and Other Trade Barriers:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 03 May 2005
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