And his work will begin immediately.
President Donald Trump is out there making moves. Half the country loves his moves, or doesn't see what the big deal is about the moves. The other half hates them. Maybe the one thing he whole country can agree upon is that, yes, Trump shaved Vince McMahon’s head at WrestleMania 23.
But there’s good news! Trump's boy Robert Lighthizer is now U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)!
Here's why that's good: Mr. Trump made a big, big deal out of his plans to reshape American trade policy as a candidate, and since taking office he’s order up lots of studies – beautiful studies, big league/possibly bigly studies – of trade-related matters.
When asked about specifics, though – like during his recent interview with the Economist, when he was asked point blank what he’d change about NAFTA – the president demurs (he could have said “rules of origin” like his Commerce secretary did, that would have been a good answer).
And so far, the Trump trade rhetoric hasn’t amounted to much. His quick-turnaround announcement of a small trade deal with China? It looks like the Chinese government just shipped the White House a basket of low-hanging fruit.
That’s all the more reason to get his entire trade team in place. And in comes Lighthizer, a trade litigation veteran, who can interpret the president’s arguments in a cogent manner. To wit, in 2011 (and in defense of Trump) he wrote:
On a purely intellectual level, how does allowing China to constantly rig trade in its favor advance the core conservative goal of making markets more efficient? Markets do not run better when manufacturing shifts to China largely because of the actions of its government. Nor do they become more efficient when Chinese companies are given special privileges in global markets, while American companies must struggle to compete with unfairly traded goods.
Those interpretations will start immediately. NAFTA talks will begin soon, and on this Thursday, Lighthizer leaves for Vietnam to represent the United States at a trade summit of Pacific Rim nations. That’ll be important, as we’re no longer involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Go get 'em, Ambassador Lighthizer! You will be kept very busy.