Heritage Foundation’s Jim DeMint: Obamatrade Isn’t Free Trade

From Jim DeMint, President of the Heritage Foundation:

When I was first elected to Congress in 1998, South Carolina’s Fourth Congressional District was a reliably protectionist vote. In the words of former Senator Fritz Hollings, the entire delegation viewed free trade as “the commercial equivalent of unilateral disarmament.”

As a free-market conservative, free trade is in my DNA. It is a trait shared by many of my former colleagues in Congress today, and they are correct that perfection is usually unattainable in the legislative process. That is why I voted in favor of granting President Bush trade promotion authority (TPA) in 2002 even though that bill contained what we now know is an egregiously ineffective welfare program—Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

But there are key differences between that bill and the one currently on life support in the House.

The 2002 bill actually advanced free trade. Not only did it grant fast-track authority, it also extended and expanded the Andean Trade Preferences and ensured that tariffs remained low on numerous other imports. It’s not at all clear that today’s version would produce that kind of progress certainly not with a president who wants to rewrite the rules of trade and put in place the most progressive environmental and labor rules ever. Instead, today’s version of fast track authority has become a legislative vehicle for those who favor protectionism and favoritism above freedom and opportunity.

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