Further thoughts on “free trade” and the recent debate over “Trade Promotion Authority”

I recently wrote this article in which I made the case for free trade (broadly-speaking) as well as the export of crude oil and liquefied natural gas. The case for crude exports is relatively simple and I should have mentioned that New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce has been an outspoken advocate for ending the decades’-old ban on exporting American crude. President Obama could, with the use of his pen, end the ban on crude exports.

The recent votes on behalf of “Trade Promotion Authority” was quite a bit more nuanced. As I noted, Congressman Pearce voted against it, but that does not make him hostile to free trade. Rather, Pearce and 53 of the most conservative Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the bill which passed the House narrowly. Final vote here. The split was significant among conservative policy organizations with Americans for Tax Reform and National Taxpayers Union supporting TPA and the respected Heritage Foundation and some “Tea Party” groups opposed giving President Obama such negotiating authority.

Trade Promotion Authority is a tool that Congress has granted presidents dating back to 1975 for the purpose of negotiating trade agreements with Congress having an “up or down” vote on the issue (as opposed to individual members of Congress “negotiating” the agreement by tacking special interest provisions onto each agreement, thus killing them. Of course, the Obama Administration has been less-than forthcoming about a wide variety of uses of executive power and conservative opponents of TPA including Pearce expressed concern over Obama’s “near reckless disregard for the rule of law.”

So, to be clear, Congressman Pearce had a significant portion of the conservative community with him in opposing TPA. It is a close call. We at the Rio Grande Foundation certainly appreciate the fact that conservatives don’t have a lot of faith in President Obama negotiating an agreement that benefits American businesses and consumers, especially when he has sat on the crude export issue for so long. We applaud Congressman Pearce for his principled stand regardless.