today, suggesting that if you are a free trader, the Democrats are historically a better bet for you. He writes,
This narrative ignores some inconvenient evidence to the contrary, such as the fact
that in 1993 a majority of Democrats in Congress voted against NAFTA, while a majority of Republicans voted in favor.
But what really caught my eye is how wrong Paul is about the Bush steel tariffs. I was there for part of this episode, so I am confident that his interpretation--that President Bush was a protectionist--is completely backwards.
President Bush wanted to get Trade Promotion Authority (aka Fast Track) to negotiate future trade deals. It was, however, a hard sell in Congress. The steel tariffs were imposed as a quid pro quo
to get a few of the votes needed to pass TPA. The political calculation was that it was worth suffering a small, temporary trade restriction to get the tools needed for a broader, more permanent opening up of trade.
Yes, after about a year and a half, the tariffs were found to have violated international trade rules, but that was always anticipated. Indeed, one can say that it was part of the plan. When the WTO ruling was announced, President Bush happily removed the tariffs, just as he had always intended.
The trade promotion authority that this political calculation yielded pushed the free trade agenda forward. It led, for example, to CAFTA
. When this trade agreement came up for a vote in 2005, once again
a majority of Democrats in Congress voted against, while a majority of Republicans voted in favor.