NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cato Study: Congressional Trade Policies Range From Interventionist To Free Trade

February 9, 1999

The Cato Institute's Daniel Griswold believes trying to pigeon- hole politicians into either "free traders" or "isolationists" is misleading. He suggest the categories be enlarged to four: free traders, internationalists, isolationists and interventionists.

As he defines them:

  • Free traders support a pure, free market -- without trade barriers, international bailouts and subsidies to companies doing business overseas.
  • Internationalists favor cutting tariffs and other trade barriers -- but support more money for the International Monetary Fund, the Export-Import Bank and other such entities.
  • Isolationists oppose both free trade and international subsidies.
  • Interventionists are anti-free-trade, while supporting subsidies.

Studying a series of trade and trade-subsidy votes in the 105th Congress, Griswold identified only 25 House members and 12 senators who could fairly be labeled free traders.

But there were some important figures among that group -- Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Phil Crane, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Trade.

By contrast, 249 House members and 19 senators were interventionists.

In the middle were 49 House members and 14 Senators who usually voted the isolationist position, while 106 House members and 55 senators primarily voted as internationalists.

Sources: Daniel Griswold, "Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the 105th Congress," Trade Policy Analysis No. 6, February 3, 1999, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20001, (202) 842-0200; Perspective, "Who's a Free Trader?" Investor's Business Daily, February 9, 1999.


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