Many of President-elect Trump’s top-level cabinet appointments Donald Trump make the future direction of public policy in some areas less clear. His nominee for Defense Secretary has openly contradicted Trump’s claims about the efficacy of torture for extracting information from suspected terrorists. His nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services has advocated a massive overhaul of Medicare, a program Trump has vowed not to touch.
But on trade policy, Trump’s appointments have been consistent with his repeated promises to push hard against China and other nations that sell their goods into the United States. That continued Tuesday morning, with the announcement that Robert Lighthizer has been named the Trump administration’s U.S. Trade Representative.
Lighthizer, who served as a deputy United States Trade Representative during the Reagan administration, has been chair of the international trade law practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom for more than 30 years.
In that capacity, he has represented U.S. firms in suits alleging unfair trade practices by foreign firms. According to the Trump transition team, “He has worked on scores of successful cases that resulted in reducing unfair imports and helping thousands of American workers and numerous businesses.”
Trump touted Lighthizer’s dealmaking skills in announcing the appointment, saying, “Ambassador Lighthizer is going to do an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first. He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.”
Lighthizer joins a team that has already signaled that Trump’s promise to get confrontational on international trade issues was not an idle one.
Last month, Trump named university of California-Irvine economist Peter Navarro to head the newly created White House National Trade Council. A noted trade hawk, Navarro has been highly critical of China over the years, authoring a book in 2011 called Death by China: One Job at a Time. When it was turned into a movie, as though the title wasn’t clear enough, it was advertised with a poster showing a knife inscribed “Made in China” plunged into a flag-draped United States of America with blood pouring out of it.
The third leg of the Trump trade stool is venture capital billionaire Wilbur Ross, who Trump tapped to head the Commerce Department. Ross, an adviser to Trump during the presidential campaign, has a long history of doing business with and even praising China. However, during the campaign, he locked arms with Trump and Navarro, co-authoring op-eds and white papers with the economist that counseled strong protectionist trade policies.
“It is a very high honor to represent our nation and to serve in President-elect Trump’s administration as the U.S. Trade Representative,” said Lighthizer in a statement. “I am fully committed to President-elect Trump’s mission to level the playing field for American workers and forge better trade policies, which will benefit all Americans.”