Mitch McConnell on Free Trade
Republican Sr Senator (KY)
1986: Trade sanctions against apartheid in South Africa
In 1986 he sought to demonstrate his political independence by breaking with Reagan to support trade sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa. But on two big issues,
McConnell took solidly conservative positions, strongly backing the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction measure and Reagan's controversial policy of aiding the Nicaraguan contras against the Cuban-backed Sandinistas.
Source: Republican Leader, by John Dyche, p. 65
, Sep 15, 2010
Treat Hong Kong separately from China for trade
McConnell's foreign travel included a trip to Hong Kong, an experience which prompted him to sponsor the US-Hong Kong Policy Act. The bill sought to support the Hong Kong
Chinese by incorporating the Sino-British declaration on Hong Kong into American law and allowing the US to treat Hong Kong separately from China on economic and trade matters after the British handover to the People's Republic.
The bill became law on October 5, 1992. It was the 1st measure of which McConnell was primary sponsor ever to make it all the way through the legislative process, and it annoyed the
Chinese, who saw it as interference in their domestic affairs.
Source: Republican Leader, by John Dyche, p. 89
, Sep 15, 2010
1994: Firmly supported NAFTA and GATT
McConnell was among the 60 senators who voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a measure that eliminated certain tariffs and moved the US, Canada, and Mexico toward a single integrated market. NAFTA was so controversial in
Kentucky that Senator Ford broke with President Clinton and voted against it. A firm believer in freer and more open trade, McConnell would also support the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in a lame-duck session after the 1994 elections.
Source: Republican Leader, by John Dyche, p. 95
, Sep 15, 2010
Trade agreements allow selling farm products abroad
During the forum, the candidates agreed on several broad policy issues, such as eliminating the capital gains tax. But they frequently traded shots over each other’s political backers. “He’s not going to be for
any of these trade agreements that will allow you to sell your products abroad, because the AFL-CIO won’t let him,” McConnell told the Farm Bureau. “He bought into the agenda right down the line.”
Source: 2008 Kentucky Senate debate reported in Herald-Leader
, Aug 21, 2008
Voted YES on promoting free trade with Peru.
Approves the Agreement entered into with the government of Peru. Provides for the Agreement's entry into force upon certain conditions being met on or after January 1, 2008. Prescribes requirements for:
- enforcement of textile and apparel rules of origin;
- certain textile and apparel safeguard measures; and
- enforcement of export laws governing trade of timber products from Peru.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Rep. RANGEL: It's absolutely ridiculous to believe that we can create jobs without trade. I had the opportunity to travel to Peru recently. I saw firsthand how important this agreement is to Peru and how this agreement will strengthen an important ally of ours in that region. Peru is resisting the efforts of Venezuela's authoritarian President Hugo Chavez to wage a war of words and ideas in Latin America against the US. Congress should acknowledge the support of the people of Peru and pass this legislation by a strong margin.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Rep. WU: I regret that I cannot vote for this bill tonight because it does not put human rights on an equal footing with environmental and labor protections.
Rep. KILDEE: All trade agreements suffer from the same fundamental flaw: They are not self-enforcing. Trade agreements depend upon vigorous enforcement, which requires official complaints be made when violations occur. I have no faith in President Bush to show any enthusiasm to enforce this agreement. Congress should not hand this administration yet another trade agreement because past agreements have been more efficient at exporting jobs than goods and services. I appeal to all Members of Congress to vote NO on this. But I appeal especially to my fellow Democrats not to turn their backs on those American workers who suffer from the export of their jobs. They want a paycheck, not an unemployment check.
Reference: Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act;
Bill H.R. 3688
; vote number 2007-413
on Dec 4, 2007
Voted YES on free trade agreement with Oman.
Vote on final passage of a bill to implement the United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement.
Opponents of the bill say to vote NAY because:
- International trade can confer tremendous benefits on all of its participants. Unfortunately, the Oman Free Trade Agreement fails to live up to that potential.
- In 2001, the US entered into a similar trade agreement with the country of Jordan. The agreement was heralded for its progressive labor standards. However, we have recently seen in Jordan instances of foreign workers forced into slave labor, stripped of their passports, denied their wages, and compelled to work for days without rest.
- These incidents have been occurring in Jordan because Jordanian labor laws preclude protections for foreign workers. My fear in Oman is that they have far weaker labor standards, and that would lend itself to even worse conditions than in Jordan.
- When our trade partners are held to different, less stringent standards, no one is better off.
When Omani firms can employ workers in substandard conditions, the Omani workers and American workers both lose. The playing field is not level.
Proponents of the bill say to vote YEA because:
Reference: United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement;
Bill S. 3569
; vote number 2006-190
on Jun 29, 2006
- The Oman Free Trade Agreement sends a very important message that the US strongly supports the economic development of moderate Middle Eastern nations. This is a vital message in the global war on terrorism.
- Since the end of WWII, the US has accepted nonreciprocal trade concessions in order to further important Cold War and post-Cold War foreign policy objectives. Examples include offering Japan and Europe nonreciprocal access to American markets during the 1950s in order to strengthen the economies of our allies and prevent the spread of communism.
- Oman is quickly running out of oil and, as a result, has launched a series of measures to reform its economy. This free-trade agreement immediately removes Oman's uniform 5% tariff on US goods.
Voted YES on implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade.
Approves the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States-Free Trade Agreement entered into on August 5, 2005, with the governments of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (CAFTA-DR), and the statement of administrative action proposed to implement the Agreement. Voting YES would:
Reference: Central America Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act;
Bill HR 3045
; vote number 2005-209
on Jul 28, 2005
- Progressively eliminate customs duties on all originating goods traded among the participating nations
- Preserve US duties on imports of sugar goods over a certain quota
- Remove duties on textile and apparel goods traded among participating nations
- Prohibit export subsidies for agricultural goods traded among participating nations
- Provide for cooperation among participating nations on customs laws and import licensing procedures
- Recommend that each participating nation uphold the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
- Urge each participating nation to obey various international agreements regarding intellectual property rights
Voted YES on establishing free trade between US & Singapore.
Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the US and Singapore. The trade agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the US and Singapore. The agreement would remove tariffs on goods and duties on textiles, and open markets for services The agreement would also establish intellectual property, environmental and labor standards.
Reference: US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act;
Bill S.1417/HR 2739
; vote number 2003-318
on Jul 31, 2003
Voted YES on establishing free trade between the US and Chile.
Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the US and Chile. The agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the US and Chile. The trade pact would decrease duties and tariffs on agricultural and textile products. It would also open markets for services. The trade pact would establish intellectual property safeguards and would call for enforcement of environmental and labor standards.
Reference: US-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act;
Bill S.1416/HR 2738
; vote number 2003-319
on Jul 31, 2003
Voted YES on extending free trade to Andean nations.
HR3009 Fast Track Trade Authority bill: To extend the Andean Trade Preference Act, to grant additional trade benefits under that Act, and for other purposes. Vote to pass a bill that would enlarge duty-free status to particular products from Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, renew the president's fast-track authority and reauthorize and increase a program to make accessible retraining and relocation assistance to U.S. workers hurt by trade agreements. It would also approve a five-year extension of Generalized System of Preferences and produce a refundable 70 percent tax credit for health insurance costs for displaced workers.
; vote number 2002-130
on May 23, 2002
Voted YES on granting normal trade relations status to Vietnam.
Vote to grant annual normal trade relations status to Vietnam. The resolution would allow Vietnamese imports to receive the same tariffs as those of other U.S. trading partners.
; vote number 2001-291
on Oct 3, 2001
Voted YES on removing common goods from national security export rules.
Vote to provide the president the authority to control the export of sensitive dual-use items for national security purposes. The bill would eliminate restrictions on the export of technology that is readily available in foreign markets.
; vote number 2001-275
on Sep 6, 2001
Voted YES on permanent normal trade relations with China.
Vote to give permanent Normal Trade Relations [NTR] status to China. Currently, NTR status for China is debated and voted on annually.
; vote number 2000-251
on Sep 19, 2000
Voted YES on expanding trade to the third world.
Vote to expand trade with more than 70 countries in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. The countries would be required to meet certain eligibility requirements in protecting freedoms of expression and associatio
; vote number 2000-98
on May 11, 2000
Voted YES on renewing 'fast track' presidential trade authority.
Vote to proceed to the bill which establishes negotiating objectives for trade agreements, and renews 'fast track' trade authority for the President, which allows Congress to adopt or to reject a proposed trade agreement, but not to amend it.
Bill S 1269
; vote number 1997-294
on Nov 5, 1997
Voted YES on imposing trade sanctions on Japan for closed market.
Resolution supporting sanctions on Japanese products if car parts markets don't open up; and seeking sharp reductions in the trade imbalances in car sales and parts through elimination of restrictive Japanese market-closing practices.
Bill S Res 118
; vote number 1995-158
on May 9, 1995
Rated 92% by CATO, indicating a pro-free trade voting record.
McConnell scores 92% by CATO on senior issues
The mission of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies is to increase public understanding of the benefits of free trade and the costs of protectionism.
The Cato Trade Center focuses not only on U.S. protectionism, but also on trade barriers around the world. Cato scholars examine how the negotiation of multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade agreements can reduce trade barriers and provide institutional support for open markets. Not all trade agreements, however, lead to genuine liberalization. In this regard, Trade Center studies scrutinize whether purportedly market-opening accords actually seek to dictate marketplace results, or increase bureaucratic interference in the economy as a condition of market access.
Studies by Cato Trade Center scholars show that the United States is most effective in encouraging open markets abroad when it leads by example.
The relative openness and consequent strength of the U.S. economy already lend powerful support to the worldwide trend toward embracing open markets. Consistent adherence by the United States to free trade principles would give this trend even greater momentum. Thus, Cato scholars have found that unilateral liberalization supports rather than undermines productive trade negotiations.
Scholars at the Cato Trade Center aim at nothing less than changing the terms of the trade policy debate: away from the current mercantilist preoccupation with trade balances, and toward a recognition that open markets are their own reward.
The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Source: CATO website 02n-CATO on Dec 31, 2002
Extend trade restrictions on Burma to promote democracy.
McConnell introduced extending trade restrictions on Burma to promote democracy
A joint resolution approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. The original act sanctioned the ruling military junta, and recognized the National League of Democracy as the legitimate representative of the Burmese people.
Legislative Outcome: Related bills: H.J.RES.44, H.J.RES.93, S.J.RES.41; became Public Law 110-52.
Source: S.J.RES.16 07-SJR16 on Jun 14, 2007
Voted YES to kill reauthorization of Ex-Im Bank.
McConnell voted YEA Export-Import Bank Reform and Reauthorization Act
Heritage Action summary of vote# S206: The Senate voted to table (kill) an amendment by Sen. Kirk to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Sen. Kirk recommends voting NO. Heritage Foundation recommends voting YES because the "Ex-Im Bank is little more than a $140 billion slush fund for corporate welfare."
OnTheIssues explanation: Voting NO would allow a vote on reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank. Voting YES would kill the bill for reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank.
Congressional Summary from previous Ex-Im bill S.824; the Ex-Im Bank shall:Sierra Club reason for conditionally voting NO (from previous bill S.819):Sen. Shaheen's bill S.824
reauthorizes the Ex-Im Bank without undermining Obama's Climate Action Plan. The Sierra Club supports the bill because it makes both financial and environmental sense for the US and all of its taxpayer-backed financial institutions--including Ex-Im--to stop investing in dirty and dangerous fossil fuels like coal.
- Provide technical assistance to small businesses on how to apply for financial assistance;
- Establish programs under which private financial institutions may share risk in loans & guarantees.
- The Bank may enter into up to $25 billion worth of contracts of reinsurance or co-finance.
Cato Institute reason for voting YES to kill the bill:The Ex-Im Bank's reauthorization buffs contend that Ex-Im fills a void left by private sector lenders unwilling to provide financing for certain transactions. Ex-Im's critics [say that] by effectively superseding risk-based decision-making with the choices of a handful of bureaucrats pursuing political objectives, Ex-Im risks taxpayer dollars. It turns out that for nearly every Ex-Im financing authorization that might advance the fortunes of a single US company, there is at least one US industry whose firms are put at a competitive disadvantage. These are the unseen consequences of Ex-Im's mission.
Source: Congressional vote 15-S0995 on Oct 19, 2015
Implement USMCA for improved North American trade.
McConnell voted YEA USMCA Implementation Act
Summary from Congressional Record and Wikipedia:Vote to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and establish the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Rather than a wholly new agreement, it has been characterized as "NAFTA 2.0"; final terms were negotiated on September 30, 2018 by each country. The agreement is scheduled to come into effect on July 1, 2020.
Case for voting YES by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL); (Dec. 19, 2019)The USMCA includes stronger protections for American workers and enforceable labor standards, as well as environmental protections. It eliminates the Trump Administration's threat that the US could walk away entirely from the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, which would devastate US jobs and our economy.
Case for voting NO by Jared Huffman (D-CA); (Dec. 19, 2019) Democratic negotiators did a lot to improve Donald Trump's weak trade deal, especially in terms of labor standards and enforcement, but the final deal did not reach the high standard that I had hoped for. The NAFTA renegotiations were a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lift labor and environmental standards across the continent--to lock in serious climate commitments with two of our largest trading partners and dramatically improve labor standards and enforcement to slow the rise of outsourcing.
Legislative outcome: Bill Passed (Senate) (89-10-1) - Jan. 16, 2020; bill Passed (House) (385-41-5) - Dec. 19, 2019; signed at the G20 Summit simultaneously by President Trump, Mexican PresidentÂ Enrique Nieto, and Canadian Prime MinisterÂ Justin Trudeau, Nov. 30, 2018
Source: Congressional vote 19-HR5430 on Dec 19, 2019
Rated 75% by the USAE, indicating support for trade engagement.
McConnell scores 75% by USA*Engage on trade issues
Ratings by USA*Engage indicate support for trade engagement or trade sanctions. The organization's self-description: "USA*Engage is concerned about the proliferation of unilateral foreign policy sanctions at the federal, state and local level. Despite the fact that broad trade-based unilateral sanctions rarely achieve our foreign policy goals, they continue to have political appeal. Unilateral sanctions give the impression that the United States is 'doing something,' while American workers, farmers and businesses absorb the costs."
USA*Engage at Work
- Developing the Case: USA*Engage explains the benefits of economic engagement, and the high cost of sanctions for American exports, investment and jobs.
- Education: We recruit respected foreign policy and economic experts to speak out against sanctions, actively engage the media and provide outreach to key target states and Congressional districts.
- Contacting Government Officials: USA*Engage directly contacts Congressional, Administration, state and local officials.
VoteMatch scoring for the USA*Engage ratings is as follows :
Source: USA*Engage 2011-2012 ratings on Congress and politicians 2012-USAE on Dec 31, 2012
- 0%-49%: supports trade sanctions;
- 50%-74%: mixed record on trade engagement;
- 75%-100%: supports trade engagement.
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Page last updated: Oct 25, 2020