Lighthizer, Ross set to talk trade on Capitol Hill next week

Lighthizer, Ross set to talk trade on Capitol Hill next week
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration’s trade policy will go under the microscope next week at the House Ways and Means Committee. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossChina sanctions Wilbur Ross, others after US warns of doing business in Hong Kong DOJ won't prosecute Wilbur Ross after watchdog found he gave false testimony Commerce Department unit gathered intel on employees, census critics: report MORE are scheduled to testify amid growing concern from lawmakers over President TrumpDonald TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE's recent tariff announcements and the threat of significant trade restrictions against China.

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Lighthizer, the nation’s top trade official, will appear on Wednesday, followed by Ross on Thursday, the panel announced.

The top officials will likely be peppered with questions about Trump's formal announcement last week that he will slap tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports over national security concerns.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRepublicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change GOP, business groups snipe at Biden restaurant remarks Top Democrat offers bill to overhaul tax break for business owners MORE (R-Texas) said he wants to work with the administration to ensure that the steel and aluminum tariffs are targeted to address unfair trade practices while not harming other sectors of the economy.

"Given Congress' constitutional authority over our nation’s trade policies, our relationship with [the United States Trade Representative] is crucial,” Brady said. 

Brady said that Ross's testimony is "especially timely given the president’s recent decision to apply tariffs on steel and aluminum and the Commerce Department's work in conducting the underlying section 232 investigations and considering petitions for exclusions from those tariffs.”

Canada and Mexico are exempt from the policy and other U.S. allies including Australia, the European Union and the United Kingdom all are asking the administration for a waiver from the policy they say will otherwise hurt their industries and possibly damage long-standing relationships. 

Congressional Republicans have expressed concern that the tariffs brought under the 232 provision in a 1962 trade law will undermine the benefits of the tax package signed by Trump in December.

But while lawmakers have introduced legislation that would challenge Trump’s tariffs but GOP leaders and others don’t expect to overturn them despite the widespread opposition.

Also, the Trump administration may seek upward of $60 billion in tariffs against China, according to news reports on Tuesday. 

Trump has reportedly asked Lighthizer to put together a plan that would punish Beijing over intellectual property protection infractions, possibly targeting the technology and telecommunications sectors.

Ross and Lighthizer may also field questions about the state of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the update to the U.S.-South Korean trade agreement — which was implemented six years ago —and plans for any additional bilateral trade deals promised by the White House.

Brady also urged the administration to pursue policies in trade deals like binding dispute settlement provisions and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which are part of the objectives Congress laid out under trade promotion authority.

Top Republican trade lawmakers are concerned that Lighthizer's push to change ISDS to be "opt-in" rather than automatic in an updated NAFTA deal will risk passage of a final pact by Congress.