The final Republican primary debate was held last week in Iowa. There were a few references to trade issues, many of which were vague and difficult to characterize (e.g., the usual references to "free and fair trade"). But this statement from John McCain jumped out at me:
[Question:] Some of our big trading partners commit human rights violations.
Considering that poverty and abuse are often blamed for fostering terrorism, should we alter trade policies with those countries?
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, obviously we should make sure that every nation respects human rights, and we should advocate that and try to enforce it. But I will open every market in the world to Iowa's agricultural products. I'm the biggest free marketer and free trader that you will ever see.
And I will also eliminate subsidies on ethanol and other agricultural products. They are an impediment to competition; they are an impediment to free markets. And I believe that subsidies are a mistake, and I don't believe that anybody can stand here and say that they're a fiscal conservative and yet support subsidies which distort markets and destroy our ability to compete in the world, and destroy our ability to get cheaper products into the United States of America.
He didn't really answer the question very directly, but it's the latter part that's of more interest. This was quite a bold statement in opposition to agriculture subsidies. Remember, he said this in Iowa! If the trade ministers of U.S. trading partners could vote, I think they'd vote for McCain.