WASHINGTON, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and USA*Engage today issued their 110th Congressional Report Card, grading Members of Congress on key international trade and engagement votes in 2007 and 2008. The Report Card scored Senators on six votes, and House Members on 12 votes, on issues ranging from the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and easing Cuba restrictions, to imposing sanctions on Burma and Iran, and encouraging divestment. In contrast to previous scorecards, this year’s Report Card considered fewer votes because Congress did not vote on as many issues involving international trade and engagement as in years past.
“While we applaud the House and Senate for taking bipartisan action on some of the policies that will help to increase U.S. goods and services exports, level the playing field for our companies, workers and farmers, and encourage diplomacy over unilateralism, overall the 110th Congress took little action on the U.S. trade and international diplomacy agenda,” said NFTC President Bill Reinsch. “There is much work left to be done. For example, we commend Congress for approving the Peru FTA, but we urge them to consider and approve agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea in a lame duck session or soon after the 111th Congress commences. Similarly, we are pleased that the House voted to expand and enhance the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, but we urge the Senate to follow suit so the United States has in place a robust program that will ensure the competitiveness of our workers displaced by trade.”
Reinsch also expressed concern over votes taken in the 110th Congress that aimed to impose increased sanctions on Iran and encouraged divestment from both Iran and Sudan, arguing that unilateralism is rarely, if ever, an effective means of achieving the desired result. “Changing the objectionable behavior of a head of state or an entire regime requires more than unilateral sticks; it requires multilateral engagement and diplomacy. The United States is best served by a foreign policy focused on the latter.”
The Report Card evaluated Senators based on six key votes: the U.S.-Peru FTA; a cloture vote for immigration reform; an amendment to block Mexican trucks; and bills to renew Burma sanctions, make OPEC illegal and approve the India Nuclear Agreement. Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), who consistently receive high marks on the scorecard, earned the two highest scores in the Senate.
With respect to the two presidential candidates, NFTC and USA*Engage noted that both senators voted in support of two key issues of importance to the associations’ members. Jake Colvin, NFTC Vice President for Global Trade Issues noted, “Senators McCain and Obama cast important votes in favor of immigration reform and the India nuclear pact, which were two key issues for us during the 110th Congress. While neither candidate was present for the vote on the Peru trade agreement, we are encouraged by the strong commitment to free trade each expressed in the most recent debate.” Colvin also pointed out that the votes on visa issues and free trade agreements demonstrate that open markets and engagement are important to large majorities of Members even if bipartisanship on some trade issues had slipped in recent years. “Going into next year, I’m optimistic about the prospects for increased bipartisan support for trade and diplomacy,” said Colvin.
To evaluate Members of the House, the NFTC and USA*Engage used 12 votes as criteria, including some of those included in the Senate Report Card and others – a vote to expand Trade Adjustment Assistance; bills encouraging divestment from companies with operations in Sudan and Iran; legislation to impose economic sanctions on Iran, prohibit funding for the visa waiver program and better enforce IP protections; and a vote on a rule to block the Colombia FTA from Congressional consideration.
Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) received the highest grade in the House, with a bipartisan group of Members following with the second highest scores: Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Dave Camp (R-MI), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Robert Kramer (D-AL), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Baron Hill (D-IN), Timothy Johnson (D-IL), Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Christopher Shays (R-CT).
The National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org) is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves hundreds of member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.
USA*Engage (www.usaengage.org) is a coalition of small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. Established in 1997 and organized under the National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org), USA*Engage leads a campaign to inform policy-makers, opinion-leaders, and the public about the counterproductive nature of unilateral sanctions, the importance of exports and overseas investment for American competitiveness and jobs, and the role of American companies in promoting human rights and democracy world wide.