George W. Bush on Free Trade

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


AGOA: eliminate tariffs on most African exports

When I took office, America had free trade agreements in place with three countries: Canada, Mexico, & Israel. By the time I left, we had agreements with 17, including developing countries such as Jordan & Morocco, and the young democracies of Central America.

To further boost African economies, we worked with G-8 partners to cancel more than $34 billion in debt from poor African countries. The initiative built on the substantial debt relief President Clinton had secured. A report by Bono's DATA organization concluded that debt relief has allowed African nations to send 42 million more children to school.

One vital economic initiative was the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which eliminated tariffs on most African exports to the US. Pres. Clinton signed AGOS; I worked with Congress to expand it.

I saw its impact firsthand when I met entrepreneurs in Ghana who exported their products to the US. A dressmaker named Esther told me, "I'm helping other women, and I'm helping my family too."

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.350-351 , Nov 9, 2010

Free market provides fairest way to allocate resources

By 1978, I started to think about running for Congress. I had the political experience. I also felt something stronger pulling me in. I was concerned about the direction of the country.

My experiences in business school, China, and the oil business wer converging into a set of convictions: The free market provided the fairest way to allocate resources. Lower taxes rewarded hard work and encouraged risk taking. Eliminating barriers to trade created new export markets for American producers & more choice for our consumers. Government should respect its constitutional limits.

When I looked at Pres. Carter & the Democratic Congress, I saw the opposite. They had plans to raise taxes & substitute federal spending for private-sector job creation. I worried about America drifting left, toward a version of welfare-state Europe, where central government planning crowded out free enterprise. I wanted to do something about it. I was having my first experience with the political bug, and it was biting hard.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p. 38 , Nov 9, 2010

Reduced trade sanctions against Cuba but opposed visits

In 2002, I got the opportunity to meet Fidel Castro. A few of America's sanctions against Cuba dealing with food and agricultural products had finally been lifted, so Minnesota was able to put together a trade mission for humanitarian purposes. Pres. Bush was very opposed to my going along, but I decided it was my right as a American citizen.

I'd grown up in fear of Fidel Castro. I was young when his revolution took place in 1959, but I remember the propaganda. I vaguely recall hearing about the Bay of Pigs invasion.

I met Castro at the trade fair. The first words out of his mouth were, "You are a man of great courage." I was puzzled; he looked at me and said, "You defied your president to come here." I guess he has pretty good "intel."

And I looked right back at him and said, "Well, Mr. President, you'll find that I defy most everything." I told him that I felt the U.S. boycott was wrong. It did nothing positive for either of our countries, and it was time for Americans to get over it.

Source: American Conspiracies, by Jesse Ventura, p. 26-27 , Mar 8, 2010

Linked trade agreements to participation in Iraq War

Examples of using economic diplomacy for the common good have been overshadowed in recent years by the priorities set under the influence of the Bush pre-emptive war doctrine. Entering the war in Iraq based on erroneous information, has forced us to go shopping around the world for friends, armed with carrots and with sticks. In order to pull together what was called a willing coalition, they went to the poorest developing countries and said, 'If you can't send a soldier, send a policeman." And, "If yo don't have the money, can we give you some?"

Deals were made. Once in a small country I joined the US ambassador for a meeting. The US ambassador made it clear to this president that if he withdrew the handful of soldiers he had sent to Iraq, it would be very difficult for him to get a trade agreement with the US. I was shocked and clarified that I was opposed to the war and as far as I was concerned the deal for the trade agreement had nothing to do with his willingness to send troops.

Source: A Bad Day Since, by Charles Rangel, p.168 , Aug 5, 2008

OpEd: Globalist perspective supports NAFTA immigration

President Bush's thinking derives from his own globalist perspective. Bush does not secure our borders because he does not want to. The problem is that President Bush took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the US, and NAFTA or some future North American Union.

If globalists told Middle America what their real agenda truly is, we believe that Middle America would demand the repeal of NAFTA and all other North American or Western Hemisphere free-market agreements of this nature. Globalists of course do not say that their free trade ideas require the US to accept any and all impoverished, uneducated, foreign masses who want to be here. Globalists keep this key point very quiet for a good reason: They know that the vast majority of Middle America would soundly reject their philosophy the moment it understood the threat to American sovereignty that expanding NAFTA into a political entity would entail.

Source: Minutemen, by Jim Gilchrist & Jerome Corsi, p.198-199 , Jul 25, 2006

Open more markets to keep America competitive

Keeping America competitive requires us to open more markets for all that Americans make and grow. One out of every five factory jobs in America is related to global trade, and we want people everywhere to buy American. With open markets and a level playing field, no one can outproduce or outcompete the American worker.
Source: 2006 State of the Union Address , Jan 31, 2006

Fact Check: Free trade tempered by steel protectionism

FACTCHECK on Trade: In speaking of benefits of international trade, the President failed to mention his own steps to protect the politically important US steel industry.

BUSH: My Administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America ‘s entrepreneurs, and manufacturers, and farmers, and to create jobs for America ‘s workers.

FACTCHECK: Not mentioned: Bush’s imposition of tariffs on imported steel, which pleased US labor unions and steel executives but which were found to violate World Trade Organization rules. Bush lifted the steel tariffs Dec. 4 after trading partners threatened retaliation against US exports.

Source: FactCheck.org on the 2004 State of the Union address , Jan 20, 2004

Tariffs over free trade, for steel industry

On March 5, 2002, the President announced he would impose tariffs of up to 30% on imported steel in an effort to shore up the long-declining industry. Steel executives praised the President and said that the tariffs might save jobs. Free trade advocates wondered how other countries would respond and what the effect would be on the cost of a wide array of goods.
Source: The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind, p.238 , Jan 13, 2004

Repeals steel tariffs he imposed in 2002

The Bush administration has decided to repeal most of its 20-month-old tariffs on imported steel to head off a trade war. European countries and Japan had vowed to respond to the tariffs, which were ruled illegal by the WTO, by imposing sanctions on up to $2.2 billion in exports from the US, beginning as soon as Dec. 15.

Bush advisers said they were aware the reversal could produce a backlash against him in several steel-producing states of the Rust Belt-including PA, WV, & OH. That arc of states has been hit severely by losses in manufacturing jobs and will be among the most closely contested in his reelection race.

Bush decided in March 2002 to impose tariffs of 8% to 30% on most steel imports from abroad for three years. The decision was heavily influenced by the desire to help the Rust Belt states, but the departure from Bush’s free-trade principles drew fierce criticism from his conservative supporters. After a blast of international opposition, the administration began approving exemptions.

Source: Mike Allen, Washington Post, p A1 on 2004 election , Dec 1, 2003

Don’t link trade to environment and labor

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” , Sep 30, 2000

Sow free trade and farmers will reap

Q: What will you do as president to help farmers get sufficient pay for their work?
A: I would be a free trading president, a president that will work tirelessly to open up markets for agricultural products all over the world. I believe our American farmers. can compete so long as the playing field is level. That’s why I am such a strong advocate of free trade and that’s why I reject protectionism and isolation because I think it hurts our American farmers.
Source: Republican debate in West Columbia, South Carolina , Jan 7, 2000

A free market promotes dreams and individuality

[After visiting China], I’ll never forget the contrast between what I learned about the free market at Harvard and what I saw in the closed isolation of China. Every bicycle looked the same. People’s clothes were all the same. a free market frees individuals to make distinct choices and independent decisions. The market gives individuals the opportunity to demand and decide, and entrepreneurs the opportunity to provide.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p. 61. , Dec 9, 1999

Import fees are not the answer to foreign competition

In 1999, when a glut of foreign oil drove prices below $12 a barrel, many of my friends in the oil business wanted the government to rescue them through price supports. . . I understand the frustration of people. but I do not support import fees. . . I believe it makes sense to use the tax code to encourage activities that benefit America. But I do not want to put up fees or tariffs or roadblocks to trade.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p. 65-66. , Dec 9, 1999

The fearful build walls; the confident demolish them.

I’ll work to end tariffs and break down barriers everywhere, entirely, so the whole world trades in freedom. The fearful build walls. The confident demolish them. I am confident in American workers and farmers and producers. And I am confident that America’s best is the best in the world.
Source: Candidacy Announcement speech, Cedar Rapids, Iowa , Jun 12, 1999

George W. Bush on NAFTA + WTO

Don't block agreements based on nativism & isolationism

The failure of immigration reform points out larger concerns about the direction of our politics. The blend of isolationism, protectionism, and nativism that affected the immigration debate also led Congress to block free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. I recognize the genuine anxiety that people feel about foreign competition. But our economy, our security, and our culture would all be weakened by an attempt to wall ourselves off from the world. Americans should never fear competition. Our country has always thrived when we've engaged the world with confidence in our values and ourselves. The same will be true in the twenty-first century.
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.306 , Nov 9, 2010

Fast-track needed for US global economic leadership

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is also known as "fast-track" authority because it gives the president the ability to hash out the fine details of a trade agreement & then submit it to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Without fast-track, it is virtually impossible to work out a trade deal without getting bogged down in Congress over side disputes. TPA had expired in 1994. It became important to pass in 2001 as a sign that the US was taking a leadership role in shoring up a global economy shaken by 9/11.

The measure passed by a single vote, cast by Rep. Robin Hayes (R, NC), whose district was full of textile mills and voters who feared losing their jobs if trade barriers were lowered. A textile mill owner himself, Hayes voted on principle: he believed TPA was a power any president should have. But it was not an easy vote for him to make. After casting it, he sat down on the House floor and wept, believing he had ended his political career.

I made it a personal crusade to see him reelected. He won.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.307-308 , Mar 9, 2010

Establish Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005

We must affirm our commitment to complete negotiations on the free trade area of the Americans by January, 2005. Nothing we do [at the trade meeting] in Quebec will be more important or have a greater long-term impact. It will make our hemisphere the largest free trade area in the world, encompassing 34 countries and 800 million people.

There’s a vital link between freedom of people and freedom of commerce. Democratic freedoms cannot flourish unless our hemisphere also builds a prosperity whose benefits are widely shared. And open trade is an essential foundation for that prosperity and that possibility.

Open trade fuels the engines of economic growth that creates new jobs and new income. It applies the power of markets to the needs of the poor. It spurs the process of economic and legal reform. It helps dismantle protectionist bureaucracies that stifle incentive and invite corruption. And open trade reinforces the habits of liberty that sustain democracy over the long term.

Source: Remarks to the Organization of American States , Apr 17, 2001

Add Chile, Brazil, Argentina, & others to NAFTA

Q: Would you pursue a hemispheric trade deal extending the benefits of NAFTA to Central and South America and the Caribbean?

A: My administration will foster democracy and level barriers to trade. If elected, my goal will be free trade agreements with all the nations of Latin America. We can do so in cooperation with our NAFTA partners. We should also do so with Chile, and Brazil and Argentina, the anchor states of Mercosur. We will also work toward free trade with the smaller nations of Central America and the Caribbean. We must be flexible because one-size-fits-all negotiations are not always the answer. But the ultimate goal will remain constant, free trade from northernmost Canada to the tip of Cape Horn. In the near term, we will renew trade preferences with the Andean nations - enacted in 1991, and set to expire next year.

Source: Associated Press on 2000 presidential race , Oct 31, 2000

No trade barriers from Alaska to the tip of Cape Horn

Bush went campaigning in Mexico today, dedicating the World Trade Bridge in Laredo. “In the past there have been walls of divide between Mexico and the US,” Bush said. “We must be committed to raise the bridges of trade & friendship & freedom.” Bush said the opening of the bridge was an example of the growing economic ties between the US and Mexico. In promising to push aggressively for free trade in this hemisphere, Bush said he would tear down trade barriers from Alaska to “the tip of the Cape Horn.”
Source: Jim Yardley, New York Times on 2000 election , Apr 24, 2000

Fast Track in west; WTO in east

Bush said he would seek “fast-track” negotiating status from Congress to expand free trade in the Western Hemisphere: “I will work to create an entire hemisphere in free trade,” he said. “I will work to extend the benefits of NAFTA from the northernmost Alaska to the tip of Cape Horn.” He said he wanted to build on NAFTA to bring other countries throughout Latin America Meanwhile, the Bush campaign distributed a policy statement that said he supports admission of China and Taiwan to the WTO.
Source: Kelley Shannon, Associated Press, in L.A. Times , Apr 24, 2000

Supports Fast Track; WTO; NAFTA; anti-dumping

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

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Other past presidents on Free Trade: George W. Bush on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Tea Party
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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022