Lighthizer impresses his interrogators.
Today was a “snow day” in Washington, D.C., which means we got approximately 2.5 inches of wintry mix, everybody stayed home, there was probably a gnarly traffic jam somewhere, and nobody shoveled their sidewalks.
The people’s tribunes in the U.S. Senate, though, made it through all of that, got to the Capitol, and got to work. Grindin'! They were on their grind. The Senate Finance Committee convened today for a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee for United States Trade Representative (USTR) – basically, the White House’s top trade diplomat. His name is Robert Lighthizer, and he comes with a tough reputation.
Sounded like he could have used a coughdrop today:
Anyway, as Politico points out, Lighthizer is a veteran of the agency he’s been tapped to lead; he served as a deputy USTR during the Reagan administration. During his time there, and later during decades of private practice as a Washington attorney with a trade specialty, Lighthizer developed a name for being a tough customer in defense of American interests in trade disputes – and particularly in defense of heavy industries like steel. Bloomberg notes he earned the nickname “the hammer.”
More importantly than snappy nicknames, though, many Senators concerned by what they see as a lack of experience have praised his nomination. Before and after his hearing today – during which he questioned the usefulness of existing World Trade Organization (WTO) tools to respond to China’s industrial policy, and “promised to enforce labor and environmental standards as vigorously as other obligations” – he earned praise from senators like Rob Portman, Sherrod Brown, and Chuck Grassley.
“He’s got a great deal of experience, and there’s a lot of people in the administration who don’t have very much,” Grassley told the Financial Times.
Our take? Lighthizer is a good pick for the Trump administration. He hews a tough line on trade, and is the right kind of person to see some of the president’s wild trade rhetoric bear actual fruit.
Said Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul:
“Robert Lighthizer is uniquely qualified to represent the trade interests of U.S. companies and America’s factory workers. His experience with trade litigation, policy, and legislative issues makes him the right choice to lead USTR.
“Lighthizer has a difficult job ahead of him. The U.S. trade deficit with China has quadrupled since 2001 and global industrial overcapacity is at record levels. His leadership at USTR will be vital to fighting unfair trade, negotiating better trade deals, and defending U.S. rights at the WTO.”