President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated attorney Robert Lighthizer, a critic of China’s trade practices and an advocate of greater protectionism, as U.S. trade representative.
The selection of Lighthizer is another signal that Trump is poised to take into government the aggressive trade policies he advocated during the presidential campaign, according to The Financial Times.
“I am fully committed to President-elect Trump’s mission to level the playing field for American workers and forge better trade policies which will benefit all Americans,” Lighthizer said.
Trump said his nominee 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.”
“He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity,” he added.
As a deputy trade representative in the Reagan administration, Lighthizer helped to stem the tide of imports from Japan in the 1980s with threats of quotas and punitive tariffs, Reuters reports. As an attorney over the past three decades, he has represented U.S. steelmakers and other companies in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases.
“Years of passivity and drift among U.S. policymakers have allowed the U.S.-China trade deficit to grow to the point where it is widely recognized as a major threat to our economy,” he wrote in 2010 congressional testimony, adding that the U.S. “should take a much more aggressive approach in dealing with China.”
Lighthizer could also play a key role in delivering on Trump’s campaign promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. He has argued that the pro-trade Republican Party should embrace the sort of protectionism advocated by Trump.
“Bob Lighthizer understands the harmful impact of unfairly traded imports on US workers and businesses,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), a critic of U.S. trade policy. “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.”