Before he became governor of Indiana and a candidate to be Donald Trump's vice-presidential nominee, Mike Pence was a congressman, and he voted for every free-trade agreement that came before him. That record, along with at least two votes favoring freer trade with China, puts him squarely at odds with Trump on one of the signature issues of the businessman's presidential campaign.
Pence has risen toward the top of Trump's running-mate list in recent days, according to media accounts and betting markets. On Sunday evening, PredictWise gave him a 43 percent chance of being chosen by Trump, more than double the chance for the next-highest contender, former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
Pence backed trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, Panama, Peru, Oman, Chile and Singapore during his House tenure from 2001 through 2012. He voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.
He voted to keep the United States in the World Trade Organization and to maintain permanent normal trade relations with China, the country Trump repeatedly criticizes for unfair trade practices and threatens with tariffs to boost U.S. job creation.
Pence also has publicly supported the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement of Pacific Rim nations, an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration which Trump opposes and has likened to rape.
As governor Pence led state trade missions to China and to Japan, another country Trump has threatened with tariffs. He noted that Japan is the state's largest trading partner in a letter to Indiana members of Congress last year, in which he urged them to support the TPP and a what is known as "fast-track" trade negotiation authority for the president.
"Reducing tariffs and other trade barriers so that Indiana businesses can enjoy increased market access and fairly compete on the world stage is something that Congress must do," Pence wrote. "I encourage your support for Trade Promotion Authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and any other trade-related measures when they are brought before the Congress for consideration.”
Trump has made opposition to trade deals the top economic issue of his general-election campaign against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who as a senator voted for trade agreements with Chile, Oman and Singapore but opposed CAFTA. She helped negotiate the TPP as secretary of state but has opposed it in the campaign, saying the final version does not meet her standards for trade.
This year, Pence urged an Indiana manufacturer, Carrier Corp., to reconsider a decision to move 1,400 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. The company is continuing with the plans but agreed to repay some state and local tax incentives.
After meeting with the company, Pence said he did not want to give Indiana workers "false hope" that the jobs would stay in their state.