The Democrats and Trade Policy: Hints (and Divisions) from the House of Representatives



Claude Barfield | American Enterprise Institute

With trade policy positions in flux in both parties, predicting partisan political outcomes in the trade policy arena is akin to reading the future from the entrails of a goat. The new Democratic majority in the House, however, is asserting authority in a number of areas, not least on trade policy. For instance, in coming months House Democrats will decide the fate of the most important formal Trump administration trade initiative, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The US House of Representatives historically has taken the lead on trade policy, as the Constitution mandates that all revenue bills originate in that body. For more than two centuries, trade policy largely consisted of tariff (tax) policy, so the Speaker of the House and the party majority in the Ways and Means Committee retained powerful sway over congressional action in the trade area—even after trade policy transcended tariffs and included regulatory aspects of services and investment.


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