The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( Fisher Investments) -- Since the Senate began debating legislation to impose new import duties on Chinese goods on Monday, much has been made of the possibility of resurgent protectionism in the U.S. However, free trade took a big step forward Wednesday, when the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee advanced three long-dormant free trade agreements to the full House. All the FTAs are expected to pass next week. Economically, this bifurcated policy (for free trade on one hand, against it on the other) makes little sense. (Then again, protectionism altogether doesn't make a great deal of economic sense in our view.) But politics is a world in which economic sense is, well, hard to locate sometimes. And in politics, how you appear to your base is key. So it could very well be the debate over China is political cover for senators -- knowing full well it's unlikely to pass the House. This permits them to vote in favor of the administration's renegotiated (and long-stalled) FTAs while appearing "balanced" on trade to their bases.