Robert Lighthizer: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
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Robert Lighthizer: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Robert Lighthizer is Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. trade representative. (YouTube)

President-elect Donald Trump has announced that he will nominate Robert Lighthizer to the position of U.S. trade representative.

Lighthizer will lead the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which recommends trade policy to the president and represents the U.S. at the World Trade Organization. This position is particularly significant this year, as Trump campaigned on the issue of trade and said that the U.S.’ current trade policies are hurting American workers.

Robert Lighthizer is 69-years old, and he’s from Ashtabula, Ohio. According to the Baltimore Sun, he is married and has two children.

So where does Lighthizer stand on the issues? Here’s what you need to know.


1. He Was Deputy United States Trade Representative Under Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan makes an announcement from his desk at the White House in 1985. (Getty)

Several of Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees have no real experience in government, but that’s not the case with Robert Lighthizer.

Instead, Lighthizer served in the Reagan administration as deputy United States trade representative, helping to develop the president’s trade policies and to negotiate international trade agreements. Lighthizer was also the chief of staff of the United States Senate committee of finance in the 1980s.

Outside of government, Lighthizer has experience as a lawyer and has practiced international trade law at the firm Skadden, Arps Slate, Meagher and Flom for the past 30 years. Whatever criticism might be leveled at Lighthizer by Democrats, few will be able to argue that he does not have adequate experience for the position.


2. He Is Critical of Free Trade Policies

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Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago on December 28th, 2016. (Getty)

Robert Lighthizer shares Donald Trump’s views on trade, namely that workers are being hurt by trade agreements like NAFTA and that taxes on imports should be implemented in order to help U.S. industries

In a 2008 New York Times op-ed, Lighthizer said that free-trade proponents “…allow no room for practicality, nuance or flexibility. They 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. They oppose any trade limitations, even if we must depend on foreign countries to feed ourselves or equip our military. They see nothing but dogma — no matter how many jobs are lost, how high the trade deficit rises or how low the dollar falls.”

Assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, Lighthizer will be tasked with the job of renegotiating trade deals, something Donald Trump repeatedly promised to do throughout the campaign. In particular, Trump is a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he brought up at nearly every single campaign rally. He also promises to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity,” Trump said of Lighthizer in a statement.


3. He Shares Donald Trump’s View That the U.S. Must Be Tougher on China

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Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Mobile, Alabama. (Getty)

Robert Lighthizer and Donald Trump are also on the same page in that they both believe the U.S. must be tougher on China when it comes to trade, arguing that the country is engaging in unfair trade practices and currently manipulation.

In 2011, when Donald Trump was considering running for president in the 2012 election, Lighthizer praised him in an op-ed for The Washington Times, particularly defending his hard-line stance on China.

In the article, Lighthizer says that China has used “currency manipulation, subsidies, theft of intellectual property and dozens of other forms of state-sponsored, government-organized unfair trade to run up a more than $270 billion trade surplus with us and to take U.S. jobs.”

Lighthizer goes on to ask, “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?”

Trump has threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on all goods imported from China.


4. He Will Work With Peter Navarro, Who Wrote the Book ‘The Coming China Wars’

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Peter Navarro will help craft trade policy under Donald Trump. (YouTube)

Lighthizer will be working on issues of trade alongside Peter Navarro, who has written a series of books arguing that the U.S. must be tougher on China when it comes to trade, including The Coming China Wars, Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World, and Death by China

In an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, Navarro defends Trump’s hardline stance on trade and his threat to impose a 45 percent tariff on goods from China.

“Let’s set the record straight,” Navarro writes. “Trump will impose countervailing tariffs not just on China, but on any American trade partner that cheats on its trade deals using practices such as currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies.”

When Navarro’s book Death by China was adapted into a documentary film in 2012, Trump gave it a glowing review, saying, “Death by China is right on. This important documentary depicts our problem with China with facts, figures and insight. I urge you to see it.”

Navarro will be the head of the National Trade Council, a new agency Trump is creating. In a statement released this week, the president-elect’s transition team said that Lighthizer will “work in close coordination” Navarro.


5. He Must Be Confirmed by the Senate

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senator John Barrasso arrive for a news conference in the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2017. (Getty)

The role of United States Trade Representative is a cabinet position and therefore must be approved by the Senate. Donald Trump should not have any problem getting Lighthizer through, however, as only a simple majority in the Senate is required.

Because Republicans currently control the Senate, the only way Lighthizer would not be confirmed is if he were to face pushback from the Republican party. That is not expected to happen even though the views shared by Trump and Lighthizer are a complete reversal from that of the previous Republican president, George W. Bush, who was a champion of free trade. And when running for president in 2008, John McCain said that Ronald Reagan “must be spinning in his grave” seeing Republicans bashing free trade.

But Republican voters are increasingly aligned with Trump on the issue of trade; a September 2016 poll from Politico showed that 85 percent of Republicans say free trade has cost the U.S. more jobs than it has created.

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