A new report from Bryan Riley at The Heritage Foundation suggests that North Carolina’s congressional delegation “seems to be rejecting its free-trade heritage.”
In 2011, Congress overwhelmingly approved free-trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. On average, the FTAs received support from 76 percent of the Senate, and from 65 percent of the House. Yet, support from the North Carolina delegation was much weaker. While Senator Richard Burr (R) supported all three agreements, Senator Kay Hagan (D) voted against all three, for a 50/50 split. In the House of Representatives, North Carolina’s legislators voted “yes” just 36 percent of the time. Representative David Price (D) was alone in supporting all three FTAs. Six of North Carolina’s Representatives voted against all three agreements.
This weak support for trade was not a complete surprise. Heritage Foundation analysis of recent congressional votes on trade legislation shows that North Carolina’s delegation has been among the most protectionist in the country. Heritage staff used Members’ trade votes from 1997 to 2008, as reported by the Cato Institute, and calculated an average score for each state. North Carolina’s Representatives and Senators averaged free-trade scores 25 percent and 39 percent lower than the national average, respectively. During this same time frame, North Carolina ranked among the 10 most protectionist delegations in both the Senate and the House.
A protectionist delegation is disturbing precisely because free trade is a key component of economic freedom. Economic freedom is a key component of economic growth.