Memo|Economy   2 Minute Read

Mike Pence: The Ultimate Free-Trader

Published July 15, 2016

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Donald Trump is the most virulently anti-trade leader of a major American political party in decades. That position is one of the few defining policy issues of his candidacy.  Trump’s newly announced running mate is former Congressman and current Indiana Governor Mike Pence. A review of Pence’s votes and rhetoric on trade reveals he has been a fierce free-trade advocate for decades. He has supported many trade deals, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Mike Pence was one of the more ardent free-traders in America, until he showed up as Trump’s running mate. Perhaps his thinking has…evolved.

Here are six examples of just how wildly different the trade views of Donald Trump and Mike Pence are (or, perhaps, were).

1) Free trade

Pence has been a supporter of free trade, saying Americans need “free trade and open access to growing global markets” if we are to compete successfully. (December 2001)

Trump has said that he’ll levy 45% tariffs on Chinese-made goods and 35% tariffs on Mexican-made goods, which will result in retaliatory tariffs from these countries, and will ultimately raise prices to the tune of billions for American consumers.

2) The need for free trade agreements

In the 12 years he was in Congress, Pence voted for 11 trade deals and against none. On the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, Pence did not cast a vote. Pence also said that “trade agreements have truly benefited Indiana, and the entire United States.” (December 2001)

Trump has denounced all U.S. trade deals in recent memory, including NAFTA, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and TPP.

3) Trade and jobs

Pence has defended the positive effects of trade, saying that “trade means jobs.” (October 2011)

Trump said NAFTA has “destroyed” the American economy and has resulted in tens of millions of job losses.

4) Backing NAFTA

Pence said his home state of Indiana has “benefited directly under NAFTA” because Indiana’s agricultural exports now face lower tariffs in Mexico. (December 2001)

Trump has called NAFTA the "worst trade deal in history.”

5) China PNTR

Pence supported PNTR with China, voting against efforts to drop this preferred status for China. (July 2001)

Trump said Chinese membership in the WTO has "enabled the greatest jobs theft in history." He also said he would label China a currency manipulator and vowed to use “every lawful presidential power” to change trade policies with China.

6) TPP

Pence has been a vocal proponent of TPP, calling for its swift adoption. He’s noted that TPP and a trade deal the U.S. is negotiating with the European Union are “vital to compete on the world stage and something Congress must do.” (September 2014 and April 2015)

Trump has called TPP a “horrible deal” and “insanity” and has been vociferous in his criticism of this trade deal.

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