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In 2011 then Rep. Mike Pence said unequivocally, “Trade is not the villain.”
As legislator and as governor, the Indiana lawmaker has a long track record of advocating for knocking down barriers to U.S. goods and services and opening up job-creating opportunities for American companies.
And now Gov. Pence is the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee.
He has an impressive record, so let’s take a walk down history lane.
Pence entered Congress in 2001 and quickly began advocating for trade. As The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley writes, “[Pence] voted for every free-trade agreement that came before him.”
That year on the House floor, he made the case for renewing Trade Promotion Authority—“fast track”—when negotiation trade deals with other countries, because “These new markets will help grow our economy.”
Pence had the ability to explain trade in ways that the public could grasp.
“We must explore new opportunities for trade, to open up our new markets for our nation's small businesses,” Pence said. “I know that in my home state of Indiana small manufacturers and entrepreneurs are increasingly successful because they're able to win new customers in overseas markets. Congress should help the president win access to new markets through fast track trading authority. Also, we must work to expand free trade zones around the world.”
Also in 2001, Pence praised the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations saying, “Our existing trade agreements have truly benefited Indiana and the entire United States.”
“Indiana benefited directly under the North American Free Trade Agreement,” he explained. “Under NAFTA Mexico eliminated import licensing and is phasing out tariffs on wheat altogether.”
In that speech he asked why we need more free trade agreements: “Exports are the lifeblood of American agriculture.” Without trade agreements “we risk losing our existing share of foreign markets to other competitors.”
Simply put: “If we don’t supply their needs,” he warned, “someone else will.”
In 2005 Pence supported CAFTA, the Central America Free Trade Agreement. In one floor speech Pence quoted Benjamin Franklin: “No nation was ever ruined by trade.”
In another speech, he urged his colleagues to approve CAFTA to “keep the dream of ever-expanding democracy and American ideals in our hemisphere alive”
Colombia, Korea, and Panama
Three years later, Pence signed onto a letter with other House GOP leaders urging then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.
It noted that “Tens of millions of jobs across every sector of our economy are supported by trade.”
Three years later in 2011, Pence took to the House floor to “heartily support” free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama, which were approved by large bipartisan majorities in Congress that fall.
“I’ve always believed that trade means jobs,” he declared. “Expanding global markets for what we make and what we grow is going to create jobs in Indiana, on the city and on the farm.”
Earlier that year, he explained his free trade stance, telling the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, “I just believe that the more markets around the globe that we can open up to what we make and grow in Indiana, the better.”
“Trade is not the villain,” he declared.
A Pro-Trade Governor
In 2012 Pence was elected as Indiana’s governor, and he continued advocating for trade.
In 2014 Gov. Pence tweeted his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among 11 Pacific Rim nations.
The next year, he sent a letter to the Indiana Congressional delegation calling for approval of modernized Trade Promotion Authority, TPP, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership:
[R]reducing tariffs and other trade barriers so that Indiana businesses can enjoy increased market access and fairly compete on the world stage is something that Congress must do. I encourage your support for Trade Promotion Authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and any other trade-related measures when they are brought before the Congress for consideration.
International trade is working for Indiana. Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber's John Murphy wrote, "Already, more than 800,000 Indiana jobs depend on trade, and the state’s exports have approached $50 billion annually in recent years."
Throughout his political career, Mike Pence has shown he understands the importance of trade to the U.S. economy, has cogently explained why we need more of it, and has consistently supported it.
It’s hard to find a better advocate for trade than Gov. Mike Pence.