WASHINGTON, DC – USA*Engage and the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) today issued their report card for the 109th Congress, which grades Members on their voting records on key issues affecting trade, unilateral sanctions and global engagement.
“We commend Congress for passing important trade legislation this session, including free trade agreements with Bahrain, Oman and the Central American countries, as well as overwhelmingly reaffirming our commitment to the World Trade Organization,” said NFTC President and USA*Engage Co-Chair Bill Reinsch, who also applauded Senators for their votes against an amendment to impose new sanctions on Iran. “Thanks to strong bipartisan leadership by Senators Warner, Biden, Hagel and Levin, good policy won the day and this legislation – which would have been detrimental toU.S. diplomatic efforts – was defeated.”
He added, though, that in some ways the results were disappointing from the standpoint of global engagement. “The China enforcement bill [H.R. 3283] was particularly worrisome, as many Members who voted against it simply wanted to make already bad legislation even worse,” said Reinsch, who also sounded a cautionary note on U.S. sanctions policy: “It is an easy vote to approve sanctions on a regime like the one on Burma. However, Members must examine whether unilateral sanctions are having their intended effect and consider what other damage they might be doing to ordinary people in the target country. U.S. values and foreign policy objectives are better pursued through diplomacy and engagement.”
The 109th Congressional Trade and Engagement Report Card was prepared at the request of USA*Engage and NFTC member companies and associations. The organizations have tabulated and analyzed Congressional voting patterns on trade and engagement since 1997. The Report Card scored Senators on 12 votes and House Members on 14 votes, and weighted the vote on CAFTA twice.
Two House Members – Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Vic Snyder (D-AR) – received an A+ with the highest score of 14, while Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) received an A+ with a score of 12.
Jake Colvin, Director of USA*Engage, noted that the votes on visa issues and free trade agreements demonstrate that open markets and engagement are important to large majorities of Members, though bipartisanship on some trade issues had slipped from earlier sessions of Congress. “Overall we remain optimistic about the prospects for increased bipartisan support for trade and engagement.”
Colvin concluded, “There are a number of important issues that we expect to come before Congress in November and in 2007 – from granting normal trade relations to Vietnam to extending trade preferences for developing countries to considering pending free trade agreements – that warrant and require strong bipartisan support.”
A complete breakdown of the voting records and individual grades is available at http://www.usaengage.org/MBR0088-USAEngage/default.asp?id=152
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, 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.