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Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the 112th Congress

While many members of Congress claim to support free trade, Cato’s congressional trade votes database tells a different story. Rather than simply noting support or opposition to trade liberalization, Cato’s Free Trade, Free Markets methodology distinguishes between trade barriers and trade subsidies. As a result, the database allows researchers to evaluate members of Congress more precisely. In particular, voting patterns during the 112th Congress shed light on the relative importance of ideology, regionalism, and partisanship in setting trade policy. Many members who consistently support lowering barriers also consistently support expanding subsidies. So who are the real free traders in Congress? And what do the voting records of the 112th Congress tell us about the prospects for trade policy in the current term?