Media Coverage: CEO of CPA Quoted in Inside US Trade Regarding Lighthizer Pick

January 04, 2017

Coalition for a Prosperous America CEO Michael Stumo, meanwhile, said Lighthizer is “an excellent choice” – adding that “he understands that international trade is a strategic game of conflicting national interests and a competition for good jobs and industries.”

Key lawmakers, business community welcome Lighthizer pick, touting his experience on trade

[Jenny Leonard| January 3, 2016 |Inside US Trade]

Donald Trump's pick for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, is being received positively by key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and by members of the business community who cite his experience in negotiating trade agreements, as well as his stance on trade enforcement, as reasons for confidence about trade policy in the next administration.

Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said Lighthizer's work in previous administrations will benefit the U.S. in holding trading partners accountable.

“His extensive experience and service at USTR and his strong representation of American industries will be instrumental in this new role,” Brady said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Ambassador Lighthizer and President-elect Trump on developing strong, beneficial, and strictly enforceable trade agreements that create jobs, grow our economy, and improve the lives of all Americans. In addition, I know we can rely on Ambassador Lighthizer to hold other countries accountable to us.”

Lighthizer, who served as deputy USTR under President Reagan and on the Senate Finance Committee staff under then-Chairman Bob Dole (R-KS), also won praise from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), whose panel will vet Lighthizer.

“Ensuring our past, present, and future trade agreements are the best possible deals for American workers and job creators is a shared goal supported by pro-trade lawmakers and the Trump Administration alike,” Hatch said on Jan. 3, calling Lighthizer “a critical player in ensuring that America’s trade agenda reflects U.S. commercial interests, while helping set the standard for global trade.”

“I look forward to a vigorous discussion of Bob’s trade philosophy and priorities when he comes before the Finance Committee,” he added.

Hatch cited the Trade Promotion Authority Congress granted the president in 2015 in saying the incoming administration “has a unique opportunity to pursue new, bilateral trade pacts of the highest caliber that can be submitted to Congress for an up or down vote with no amendments.”

When asked the same day whether his statement suggested he has given up on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hatch told Inside U.S. Trade the opposite is the case.

“I haven't given up on TPP at all; in fact it looks as though Trump is going to do it on an individual basis rather than a TPP basis, but he may find that TPP is the way to go,” Hatch said. “But it's a little bit early to say how he's going to operate, but he knows that it's important that we have great trade relations with Japan, for instance.”

“And if he goes individually, if we get Japan we'll get a lot of other countries to come along. It's just a matter of him getting acclimated and realizing that 'hey this is important stuff,'” Hatch added.

Hatch in November suggested a bilateral deal with Japan as a TPP starting point that might garner Trump's support.

The panel's ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden (D-OR), in a statement said he looks forward “to learning how Mr. Lighthizer would address today’s challenges and deliver a trade policy that is as effective for the millworker in Medford, Oregon, as it is for the software developer in Silicon Valley.”

“It is well past time for the incoming administration to explain its approach toward international trade beyond 140 characters,” Wyden added.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), who also sits on the Finance Committee, on Jan. 3 told Inside U.S. Trade he hopes Lighthizer “will be somebody that will help us open up export markets abroad, because that's something we need to do for the country.”

The new Ways & Means ranking member, Richard Neal (D-MA), said in a statement that Lighthizer is “a knowledgeable trade lawyer and a skilled negotiator,” adding that “his nomination could signal a welcome move in a new direction for the Republican party, if he is able to overcome the resistance he is likely to face within his party.”

Neal also touted Lighthizer's rejection of “the rigid ideological mantra of ‘free trade’ that most Republican leaders have blindly embraced, regardless of the consequences for the American middle class.”

In a 2008 op-ed, Lighthizer knocked those who he said “embrace unbridled free trade, even as it helps China become a superpower.”

“They see only bright lines, even when it means bowing to the whims of anti-American bureaucrats at the World Trade Organization,” Lighthizer wrote, adding “they see nothing but dogma -- no matter how many jobs are lost, how high the trade deficit rises or how low the dollar falls.”

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), the panel's former ranking Democrat, also warned that the incoming USTR's “challenge will be to bridge very disparate opinions in a Trump Administration and create responsible trade policy that moves beyond the Trump campaign slogans.”

One source, however, doubted whether Lighthizer will be the person setting policy directives in the new administration – suggesting he could simply be the “implementer” of other people's policies and speculating whether it might be tough for him to switch “from staff mode into leadership mode.”

But, the same source added, Lighthizer's “advantage is that he's been on both sides in the past.”

Major business groups and trade associations also expressed support for Trump's pick. National Foreign Trade Council President Rufus Yerxa said his organization is looking forward to working with Lighthizer, but said commenting on policy directions for the new administration would be premature.

“Bob is a very experienced trade lawyer and a shrewd negotiator,” Yerxa said in a statement. “He will be an effective defender of USTR’s role in leading on trade negotiations, and I’m sure he’ll put together a strong team. It is too early to know what the new Administration’s negotiating priorities will be, but obviously we want to see dynamic and forward-looking trade and tax policies designed to make American businesses more competitive globally.”

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons called Lighthizer a “solid pick” and a sign that Trump “is serious about making the United States more competitive in the global marketplace.”

National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern, along with Matt McKnight, senior vice president of market access at the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said in a statement that Lighthizer's “direct private-sector engagement in enforcing trade rules on behalf of his clients will serve him well in forging a path forward on trade policy that will benefit this country.”

Coalition for a Prosperous America CEO Michael Stumo, meanwhile, said Lighthizer is “an excellent choice” – adding that “he understands that international trade is a strategic game of conflicting national interests and a competition for good jobs and industries.”

Trump and his team have said that responsibility for trade policy in the new administration will not lie solely with the USTR; Trump's Commerce secretary and his pick to head his new National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, will play a big role in shaping policy and negotiating trade deals.

Asked about the possibility of friction between the Trump administration and key committees over multiple trade leaders, Hatch noted "it's never been just one person; they've always had a series of people that have worked on these issues.”

“I personally believe that we'll give plenty of leeway for the new administration to do what it thinks is best. But we'll weigh in and try to get things as good as we can get them,” Hatch told Inside U.S. Trade. “The jurisdiction up here is in the Finance Committee and they'll have to work with us. I don't see any problem in working with us cause I think we'll want to help President-elect Trump as much as we possibly can. I don't think it's going to be too different.”

Hatch, however, added that Trump is “undoubtedly going to have a different approach than what we've been used to” and said he has “his own ideas, some of them are very innovative.”

When asked what ideas he was referring to, Hatch said “some that he's talked about have been quite interesting, let's put it that way.”

“But I think he's got to get his feet on the ground, get a trade representative going and go from there. But we're a long way from having that done,” he added. – Jenny Leonard (jleonard@iwpnews.com)

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