President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry can take as many jabs at each other as they want while the November U.S. elections near. But when it comes to international trade, they don't differ much.
Both candidates seem at first to be free-trade cheerleaders. Bush asked Congress to give him trade-promotion authority, once called "fast track," the ability to quickly enact free-trade agreements without congressional nit picking. That decision gave a green light to free trade with Chile. John Kerry voted yes on giving the president that power.
Kerry gave former President Bill Clinton his support to create the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and voted to extend free-trade policies with Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. Bush was governor of Texas at the time, where he spent billions of dollars upgrading highways and bridges to prepare for the increased number of trucks crossing the Mexican border.
Kerry later skipped votes on free-trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. Bush in 2003 signed those deals into law.
Bush and Kerry put away their pom-poms when it comes to agriculture. In 2002, Bush signed into law a farm bill that earmarked billions of dollars in subsidies and price supports for U.S. farmers. John Kerry voted yes on that bill. Of course, 2002 was an election year for Congress, and farm-state politicians needed help from Washington.