Republicans Join Free Trade Skeptics

A page one story in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal tells us that a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that Republicans have joined Democrats in having a negative view of “free” trade. As we have discussed in earlier posts, more open trade can be a good thing, but not if entered into naively. Our system is more accurately characterized as managed trade, in which we negotiate trade pacts to promote corporate interests (as opposed to those of workers, while most of our counterparts pursue other objectives, such as maintaining a trade surplus, protecting jobs, or shielding young but high potential industries.

From the Journal:

By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president.

The sign of broadening resistance to globalization came in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll that showed a fraying of Republican Party orthodoxy on the economy….

Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush’s calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.

“It’s a lot harder to sell the free-trade message to Republicans,” said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. The poll comes ahead of the Oct. 9 Republican presidential debate in Michigan sponsored by the Journal and the CNBC and MSNBC television networks.

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