Progressive group backing Trump’s USTR nominee

Getty Images

A leading progressive trade group expressed support on Tuesday for President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the nation’s trade office and the potential shift in U.S. trade policy. 

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch on Tuesday said the nomination of well-known Washington trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer to become the next U.S. Trade Representative could shake up the future to the nation’s trade policy. 

{mosads}“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,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Progressive Democrats have urged the president-elect to follow through on his promise to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), all ideas that run counter to policy backed by President Obama and many pro-trade Republicans. 

Trump nominated Lighthizer,  a familiar face on trade in Washington, to head up USTR as the president-elect aims to consolidate power on the issue, which he argues has cost millions of U.S. jobs and has hurt the economy. 

Lighthizer would likely team up with Wilbur Ross, the nominee for Commerce secretary, along with Peter Navarro, who will head up a new National Trade Council, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s representative for international negotiations.

“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,” Wallach said.

Lighthizer, who will have to leave his job as partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom to head up the trade agency, has expressed support for many of Trump’s trade policies.

As Trump moves forward on his plans to enact new trade policy, congressional Democrats are calling on the Trump team to provide more details about how the incoming administration will turn campaign rhetoric into viable policy.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said “it is well past time for the incoming administration to explain its approach toward international trade beyond 140 characters.”

Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said he has worked with Lighthizer over the years and that he “understands the harmful impact of unfairly traded imports on U.S. workers and businesses.”  

“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,” he said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who shares some views with Trump on trade, said Tuesday that he is looking forward to hearing how Lighthizer would accomplish the president-elect’s goals of rewriting U.S. trade policy and creating more manufacturing jobs, “including withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, renegotiating NAFTA  and resetting the U.S.-China trade relationship.”

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday that Trump isn’t prepared at this point to provide any details on how he wants to renegotiate NAFTA.  

“The exact policy formulation with respect to NAFTA will come in time, but just know his commitment is to the American people and to restoring our manufacturing base and economic growth,” Spicer said.

Spicer said he expected more details would be released in the coming weeks. 

Trump has said he wants to withdraw the United States from the TPP and being a reworking of NAFTA as part of his first order of business after he’s sworn into office.

Separately, the AFL-CIO and several House Democrats said Tuesday morning that they urge Trump and his administration to renegotiate the NAFTA.

AFL-President Richard Trumka called NAFTA “a political failure & a policy disaster.” 

“We are ready to fix it,” he said. 

Meanwhile, business and trade groups threw their support behind Trump’s USTR nominee. 

Linda Dempsey, vice president for international affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers, tweeted on Tuesday that “Bob Lighthizer will be one of the most experienced USTR’s with deep Hill, USTR and trade expertise.”

The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) said they are looking forward to working with Lighthizer.

“Bob is a very experienced trade lawyer and a shrewd negotiator. He will be an effective defender of USTR’s role in leading on trade negotiations, and I’m sure he’ll put together a strong team,” said Rufus Yerxa, President of the NFTC.

“It is too early to know what the new administration’s negotiating priorities will be, but obviously we want to see dynamic and forward-looking trade and tax policies designed to make American businesses more competitive globally,” Yerxa said. 

Tags Donald Trump Ron Wyden Sherrod Brown

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video