Trump's trade nominee easily overcomes Senate hurdle

Saturday, 13 May, 2017

Senate Votes to Confirm Lighthizer as Trade RepresentativeUSAgNet - 05/12/2017Senators voted Thursday to confirm Robert Lighthizer as the next USA trade representative, but the 82-14 tally exposed some discontent within President Trump's own party about the direction the administration is going on trade.

The United States Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer as United States Trade Representative (USTR) by an 82-14 vote earlier today.

Although Lighthizer was confirmed in a landslide, notable Senators, such as John McCain, voted against him, citing fears that Lighthizer's renegotiation of NAFTA will hurt states like Arizona which depend on free trade.

A Reagan-era deputy USA trade representative, Lighthizer is seen by many trade experts as a seasoned practitioner with protectionist leanings and a soft spot for heavy industry.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the committee overseeing trade policy, took to the floor before the vote to express his support, saying "It is clear that Mr. Lighthizer not only understands how the global trading system works, but also how it sometimes breaks down...."

"We fear that you do not have an appreciation for the millions of jobs created by this free trade deal, and that you would not champion agriculture", the senators wrote in a letter to Lighthizer that they released Wednesday. As one of his first acts in the presidency, Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which Congress hadn't yet approved, and he's since vowed to terminate or fix a five-year-old trade agreement with South Korea.

Roger Schagrin (Schagrin Associates), chairman of the CSUSTL executive committee added, "Given his long experience in the area of worldwide trade, we can think of no one better qualified to carry out President Trump's trade agenda than Bob Lighthizer".

"We can do better in negotiating our trade agreements and stronger in enforcing our trade laws", he said.

"He'll have their backing as the statutory lead on trade negotiations, but he'll also be the one in the hot seat as Congress demands a coherent policy and concrete progress", Olson said. Only 13 Democrats voted to block Lighthizer's nomination from coming up for a vote on Thursday morning.

That would make the "worst-case scenario" of the USA withdrawing from NAFTA less painful for Mexico and strengthen its negotiating hand, Guajardo said.

"He's a real pro", Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from OR, said before voting in favor of Lighthizer's nomination.

During his Senate confirmation hearing in March, Lighthizer indicated that the United States will push Japan to further open its agriculture sector in envisaged bilateral negotiations.

Republicans who still support the multilateral deals of the past are hopeful that Lighthizer's background in the Reagan administration means he will be more thoughtful than some of Trump's Twitter diplomacy on trade. In his 2010 testimony, Lighthizer had said the US should more aggressively scour WTO rules for new ways to bring cases against China - for manipulating its currency, say.