Only 24 percent say that pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been good for the United States, the survey found. In contrast, among Republicans who disagree with the tea party or have no opinion of it, 42 percent say trade agreements have been good for the US.
“It’s a big question mark, which way the tea party members will lean when they vote on trade,” says Daniel Griswold, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute in Washington. “Most of them have never had to think about let alone vote on a trade issue before.”
In the Senate, some of the new members have already staked out strong positions in favor of free trade agreements. Though not a tea partyer, Sen.-elect Rob Portman (R) of Ohio, former US trade representative under President George W. Bush, is certainly on board. So is the tea party-backed Sen.-elect Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania, former head of the pro-free-trade Club for Growth.