Trump Nominates Conservative Attorney to Become U.S. Trade Representative

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Robert Lighthizer to become the new U.S. trade representative in charge of the country’s trade policy.

Lighthizer, a trade attorney in private practice, served as the assistant USTR during the presidency of Ronald Reagan when tariffs were imposed on imported steel and Harley-Davidson motorcycles were protected from foreign competition by tariffs.

“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 in a statement.

Trump’s transition team said in a statement that Lighthizer will work to develop and implement “policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand economic growth, strengthen our manufacturing base and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores.”

The team noted that Lighthizer will be part of an effort to secure “good trade deals that put the American worker first” and emphasized his “extensive experience” in the legislative branch, the executive branch and the private sector.

Under Reagan, Lighthizer negotiated roughly two dozen bilateral international agreements that “frequently resulted in significant reductions in the shipment of unfairly traded imports into the United States,” the transition team said.

He also served as chief of staff on the Senate Finance Committee “when Congress passed the Reagan program of tax cuts and spending reductions,” aided in the passage of legislation that implemented the Tokyo Round of trade negotiations, and 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 private practice, Lighthizer is a partner at the Washington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meaghers & Flom and has represented American manufacturers in many large trade cases that helped reduce unfair imports.

Lighthizer’s nomination as USTR will have to be considered first by the Senate Finance Committee, where both Chairman Orrin Hatch (R–Utah), and ranking member Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) hinted at disapproval of Trump’s views on trade policy and his choice for USTR.

Hatch said the new administration’s trade agenda should “reflect U.S. commercial interests,” which could be at risk with Trump’s threats to hike import tariffs and renegotiate trade agreements.

The new USTR, a post currently held by Michael Froman, will remain the “principal negotiator on trade deals,” but the Trump transition team said that Commerce Secretary–designate Wilbur Ross, National Trade Council chief Peter Navarro and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt will “play an instrumental role in not just our trade negotiations but our trade policy overall and crafting an agenda.”