The Corner

Economy & Business

Koch Network Prepares New ‘Multi-Year, Multimillion-Dollar’ Push for Free Trade

Charles Koch delivers welcoming remarks to the Koch Seminar Network meeting (Photo: Seminar Network)

Several of the groups that make up the Koch network are getting ready for a long-haul push against the Trump administration’s tariffs and to promote the cause of free trade between the United States and other countries.

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and The LIBRE Initiative today announced a multi-year, multimillion-dollar initiative to champion the far-reaching benefits of trade and the consequences of tariffs.

The campaign will include “paid media, activist education and grassroots mobilization, lobbying and policy analysis — all intended to transform the way Washington and the rest of the country consider and value trade with other nations.”

“This campaign makes a clear statement: Trade is a major priority for our network,” said James Davis, executive vice president of Freedom Partners. “We will work aggressively to educate policymakers and others about the facts. Trade lifts people out of poverty and improves lives. It is critical to America’s future prosperity and our consumers, workers and companies. Tariffs and other trade barriers make us poorer. They raise prices for those who can least afford it. That’s why this issue is so important. This announcement is a demonstration of our long-term commitment to advance common-sense trade policies that will ensure America’s brightest days are ahead, and to directly confront the protectionist ideas that would hold us back.”

The Koch network remained neutral in the 2016 presidential election, but by January 2018 was largely pleased with what it had seen in the first year of the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration has taken some incredibly positive steps for the American economy, but tariffs will undercut that progress and needlessly hamstring our full economic potential,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity. “There are better ways to negotiate trade deals than by punishing American consumers and businesses with higher costs. Instead of pursuing protectionist policies that we already know don’t work, let’s help everyone win by expanding trade, opening new markets and lowering costs.”

“The taxes and trade barriers imposed by our government on U.S. consumers raise their cost of living and impose unnecessary costs on American firms in competition with others based abroad,” said Daniel Garza, president of the LIBRE Initiative. “Hispanics and low-income workers are among the most badly hurt by this drag on economic growth and government-mandated price increases. We are pleased to stand with those who understand how greatly America benefits from trade — and how badly hurt we are by tariffs and other barriers.”

The good news for the Koch network effort is that, at least in the abstract, Americans think well of free trade. A March Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that among both “party Republicans” and “Trump Republicans,” “more than half of those in each group see trade as a potentially good thing rather than an economic threat.” Of course, the Trump administration would argue it doesn’t oppose free trade in theory, merely bad agreements signed in the past.

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