President-elect Donald Trump will nominate Robert Lighthizer as the U.S. trade representative, a former Ronald Reagan administration official who believes true conservatives have always opposed free trade.
Lighthizer joins a team of trade experts who will confront China and Mexico for more favorable trade deals in the Trump administration.
Lighthizer has 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,” Trump said in a statement announcing the nomination.
“He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity,” Trump said.
Lighthizer is a long-time fan of Trump, and served as U.S. trade representative under Reagan, who famously said his administration’s motto was “free and fair trade with free and fair traders.”
Lighthizer said commitment to free trade policies is “more of an aberration than a hallmark of true American conservatism,” in a 2011 Washington Times column.
The column defends Trump against attacks from political consultant Karl Rove and libertarian Club for Growth, who said Trump was not a real conservative because of his protectionist policies.
Lighthizer argues that it’s not free trade if a country can “run up a more than $270 billion trade surplus with us and to take U.S. jobs.” Global markets don’t work any better when “manufacturing shifts to China largely because of the actions of its government.”
The supposed free-market system is not more efficient when “Chinese companies are given special privileges in global markets, while American companies must struggle to compete with unfairly traded goods,” Lighthizer said.
In fact, Lighthizer argued that the Republican Party’s commitment to free trade policies
“For most of its 157-year history, the Republican Party has been the party of building domestic industry by using trade policy to promote U.S. exports and fend off unfairly traded imports,” Lighthizer wrote in a 2011 column for the Washington Times.
“When viewed in this context, the recent blind faith some Republicans have shown toward free trade actually represents more of an aberration than a hallmark of true American conservatism,” Lighthizer said.
Trump has yet to name four cabinet-level picks, including secretaries for agriculture and veterans affairs, the director of national intelligence and the head of the council of economic advisers.
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