Lighthizer nomination wins praise from opposing groups

The Hagstrom Report

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said Jan. 3 he is looking forward to working with Robert Lighthizer, whom President-elect Donald Trump nominated for U.S. Trade Representative earlier in the day. But Lighthizer also won praise from Public Citizen’s Trade Watch and groups that have usually been more concerned about increased imports rather than the exports that are so important to farmers.

Duvall said Lighthizer “has had a long and distinguished career in trade, working in the White House, Senate and private sector to assure favorable trading conditions for American goods and services.

“America’s farmers and ranchers know unfair regulations, steep tariffs and senseless nontariff barriers undermine our exports. We must work together to remove these obstacles to prosperity and identify new global opportunities that will benefit American agriculture,” Duvall added.

“Economic growth in rural America depends on maintaining and increasing access to markets outside the United States. Since more than 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside our borders, expanding access to international markets is essential for our future success,” he concluded. “We trust Mr. Lighthizer will work tirelessly to assure it.”

“Lighthizer is very knowledgeable about both technical trade policy and the ways of Washington, but what sets him aside among high-level Republican trade experts is that for decades his views have been shaped by the pragmatic outcomes of trade agreements and policies rather than fealty to any particular ideology or theory,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, told The Hill.


Wallach, who opposed the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement as vigorously as most farm groups supported it, added, “I don’t know that he would agree with progressive critics of our status quo trade policies about alternative approaches, but he also has had quite a different perspective on trade policy than the Republican congressional leaders and most of Trump’s other cabinet nominees who have supported the TPP and every past trade deal.”

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., a former ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Lighthizer would have to work hard to turn Trump’s views on trade into policy.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who will oversee Lighthizer’s nomination in committee, noted that Lighthizer will have Trade Promotion Authority to negotiate new trade agreements, but did not take any position on the nomination.

“Ensuring our past, present and future trade agreements are the best possible deals for American workers and job creators is a shared goal supported by pro-trade lawmakers and the Trump administration alike,” Hatch said. “As the incoming administration undertakes this enormous responsibility, Bob will be a critical player in ensuring that America’s trade agenda reflects U.S. commercial interests, while helping set the standard for global trade.

“Armed with bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority, the incoming Trump administration has a unique opportunity to pursue new, bilateral trade pacts of the highest caliber that can be submitted to Congress for an up or down vote with no amendments,” he added. “As the world and our economic competitors move to expand their global footprints, we can’t afford to be left behind in securing strong deals that will increase access to new markets for American-made products and services, protect our intellectual property rights abroad, and ensure domestic businesses can successfully compete in the 21st-century global economy. I look forward to a vigorous discussion of Bob’s trade philosophy and priorities when he comes before the Finance Committee.”

Wyden, who will join Hatch in leading the examination of Lighthizer, said the nominee would have to work hard to turn tweets into policy.

“It is vital that the United States Trade Representative deliver results for American workers by aggressively enforcing trade rules and knocking down malicious trade barriers that lock manufacturers and farmers out of overseas markets,” Wyden said.

“I look forward to learning how Mr. Lighthizer would address today’s challenges and deliver a trade policy that is as effective for the millworker in Medford, Ore., as it is for the software developer in Silicon Valley,” he said.

“It is well past time for the incoming administration to explain its approach toward international trade beyond 140 characters,” Wyden added. “American workers, businesses, farmers, ranchers and innovators don’t need more slogans – they need real solutions to the challenges they face here at home and overseas.”


Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., said, “Our trade policies are in need of reform, with a refocus on the American worker. Bob Lighthizer is a knowledgeable trade lawyer and a skilled negotiator. He has rejected the rigid ideological mantra of ‘free trade’ that most Republican leaders have blindly embraced, regardless of the consequences for the American middle class. His nomination could signal a welcome move in a new direction for the Republican party, if he is able to overcome the resistance he is likely to face within his party.”

Levin said, “Bob Lighthizer understands the harmful impact of unfairly traded imports on U.S. workers and businesses. I have worked with him over the years to strengthen U.S. trade remedy laws. His challenge will be to bridge very disparate opinions in a Trump administration and create responsible trade policy that moves beyond the Trump campaign slogans.”

In his announcement, Trump noted that Lighthizer served as deputy trade representative in the Reagan administration, was chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee when Congress passed the Reagan program of tax cuts and spending reductions, and also aided in the passage of legislation which implemented the Tokyo Round of trade negotiations. He has also represented the U.S. at meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and meetings related to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the precursor to the World Trade Organization). In the private sector, Lighthizer headed up the international trade law practice at Skadden, Arps Slate, Meagher and Flom for more than three decades.

“He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans,” Trump said.❖


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