Trade Cases

Robert Lighthizer Confirmed as US Trade Representative

Written by Sandy Williams

Robert Lighthizer was confirmed as the new US Trade Representative by an 82-14 vote in the Senate on Thursday.

Lighthizer faced some opposition from Republican Senators John McCain (Ariz.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) who said they would vote against the Trump nominee because of his views concerning NAFTA and his alliance with the Administration’s protectionist policies.

In a letter to Lighthizer the two senators wrote, “A constant theme throughout your confirmation process has been your failure to grasp the importance of protecting agriculture in trade negotiations,”

“America needs a USTR who will effectively defend agriculture during trade negotiations and fight to expand agricultural export markets, not let America’s farmers and ranchers become collateral damage in a trade war,” Sasse and McCain wrote.

“Unfortunately, your confirmation process has failed to reassure us that you understand the North American Free Trade Agreement’s positive economic benefits to our respective States and the nation as a whole.”

Sasse and McCain said they needed more details on plans for NAFTA by the Administration and Lighthizer.

“Granting the Trump Administration additional legal powers through your confirmation without understanding how you or the Administration intend to use those powers would be irresponsible,” said the Senators in their letter.

Democrat Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio), an advocate for the steel industry, and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) pledged their support to Lighthizer for his views on trade enforcement.

Wisconsin Democrat Sen. Tammy Baldwin approved of the Administration’s stance on dairy farmers that allege they have been hurt by Canada’s restrictive trade barriers.

“In Wisconsin, there is an immediate need for the Trump Administration to follow through on the promises that have been made to our workers and dairy farmers,” said Baldwin in a statement. “Our agriculture economy has been hurt by Canada’s restrictive trade barriers and we need action to ensure our dairy farmers are not put out of business by trade politics and dairy policies set in Canada.”

Following the vote the Steel Manufacturers Association commended the Senate for confirming Lighthizer. Said Philip K. Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA):

“We are extremely pleased that the Senate confirmed Mr. Lighthizer, and we are excited to work with him on issues such as unfair trade, global steel overcapacity and circumvention of trade duties,” said Bell. “His prior experience as a Deputy USTR, a trade attorney and his reputation as a strong negotiator make him the right person at the right time for this critical role.” It is extremely gratifying to have this confirmation process concluded. SMA members are poised to work with Mr. Lighthizer on trade policy and enforcement issues important to 21st Century Steelmakers.”

Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) applauded the confirmation:

“We thank the Senate for confirming Bob Lighthizer, and look forward to working alongside him to combat the critical issues our industry faces like global steel overcapacity and unfair trade,” said Gibson. “Bob’s prior experience at the USTR, on Capitol Hill and as a trade attorney in private practice gives him a unique understanding of how to tackle these issues. AISI and our member companies are grateful to have Bob confirmed and stand ready to work with him on key trade policy issues for steel and manufacturing as a whole.”

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