Steel advocate, former Reagan official Robert Lighthizer will lead Trump's USTR

Dive Brief:

  • President-elect Donald Trump nominated Robert Lighthizer as United States Trade Representative (USTR), the last of three top executive posts responsible for U.S. trade policy, various news outlets reported this week.
  • Mr. Lighthizer previously served as deputy USTR under President Ronald Reagan. POLITICO reports his main task was negotiating "voluntary restraint agreements" with various countries suspected of dumping steel into the U.S. under the threat of steep tariffs.
  • The USTR is responsible for coordinating international trade, commodity and direct investment policy, and oversees trade negotiations, according to the official website

Dive Insight:

With Lighthizer's nomination, Trump cemented the landscape for his administration's trade policy, placing three long-time trade critics in top executive posts and threatening a complete reversal of the country's long embrace of free trade. 

Considering the USTR's mission to work "toward opening markets throughout the world to create new opportunities and higher living standards for families, farmers, manufacturers, workers, consumers, and businesses," choosing a candidate to represent the office that is not at odds with Trump's agenda was likely tricky. After all, the main site's banner still advocates the virtues of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal which the office worked eight years to finalize.

Prior to Lighthizer's selection, Trump nominated Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce and created a new White House, pro-manufacturing post for Peter Navarro, noting both would be heavily involved in trade policy, a role usually reserved for the USTR. 

Yet, Lighthizer is particularly earnest and qualified for this role, according to various reports. As a long-time representative for the steel industry, Lighthizer's experience aligns both with Trump's anti-dumping rhetoric and the Obama administration's legacy of tough anti-dumping sanctions on Chinese steel. 

Together, the three appointments show Trump's domestic and foreign trade policies will be heavily intertwined, as the administration aims to bring American jobs back through increased investment in manufacturing, more favorable terms of trade and strict trade enforcement procedures.

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Filed Under: Regulation