Calls Results a ‘Mixed Bag’
Washington, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) late Friday released an analysis of what the 2008 congressional election results mean for U.S. trade and engagement policies in the 111th Congress. The NFTC conducted the analysis to explore whether there is any truth to assertions made over the past few weeks that the composition of the incoming freshman class signals a seismic shift in the future of U.S. trade policy. The NFTC analysis was designed to answer the following questions: Was trade a key campaign issue for members of the incoming class? Do new members’ views on trade differ from those of their predecessors? Is there a substantial difference between being a “trade skeptic” and being “anti-trade?” Has it become more difficult to pass trade legislation in Congress?
“After an election, it’s always tempting for representatives of each side of an issue to come out and declare victory, but it’s not that simple,” said NFTC President Bill Reinsch. “The truth of the matter is that the results of the congressional elections are a mixed bag when it comes to trade. In the majority of races, trade was not an important factor, and it is not correct to suggest that incoming members represent a sea change in the way the United States will approach trade and diplomatic policies.”
“We look forward to working with the incoming class and briefing new members on our top trade priorities, including passage of the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, enactment of an enhanced Trade Adjustment Assistance program, and a successful conclusion to the Doha Round, among many others,” said Reinsch.
The NFTC analysis found that of the eight Senate races analyzed, only four successful candidates mentioned trade explicitly on his or her Web site when discussing campaign issues. Based on these Web sites and other statements, the NFTC estimates that perhaps two of the successful candidates are less inclined towards free trade and engagement than the incumbent based upon his or her historical voting record. Similarly, in the 52 House races analyzed, only 12 successful candidates made any mention of international trade in the issues section of his or her Web site. Further, of the 12 House races in which trade was featured, only seven successful candidates appear to advocate policies that are clearly less inclined towards free trade and engagement than their predecessors. According to the NFTC, only 23 percent of successful candidates running for a House seat mentioned trade on their Web site, which is a dramatic decline from 2006 when 54 percent of successful candidates mentioned trade.
“We believe there is an opportunity to craft a bipartisan U.S. trade policy going into next year. Republicans and Democrats have indicated a strong commitment to using the May 10th agreement as the basis for the U.S. trade agenda moving forward, and we expect to see a renewed sense of bipartisanship and greater consensus on key issues like labor and the environment,” said NFTC Vice President for Global Trade Issues Jake Colvin.
“At the beginning of new presidential terms, there tends to be greater bipartisan support for trade,” Colvin continued. “Moving forward on trade policy will require building trust between the parties and leadership from the President, and our hope is that President-elect Obama will work with both sides of the aisle to restore that bipartisan spirit in Congress.”
The analysis noted that the “CAFTA-15” were easily reelected, and survived primary challenges from trade skeptics. The NFTC also pointed out that to the extent that there is any increase in skepticism, it is regional and largely reflects concerns over loss of manufacturing jobs. While the NFTC believes these are valid concerns, they do not suggest that the new Congress is broadly “anti-trade.”
Advancing Global Commerce for Over 90 Years
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.