President Donald Trump is set on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the law suggests the White House will have to wait until the senate confirms Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade representative for these negotiations to begin.
During a meeting with business executives Thursday, the president said that he wants his commerce secretary Wilbur Ross to lead the renegotiations of NAFTA, “along with a lot of other great people.” However, according to the Trade Act of 1974, the U.S. trade representative is the “chief representative” of the nation in international trade negotiations.
Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has yet to have any hearings before the Senate Finance Committee. Lighthizer served under President Ronald Reagan as deputy United States trade representative and led the international trade law practice at Skadden, Arps Slate, Meagher and Flom for over 30 years.
Aaron Forbes, press secretary for the Senate Finance Committee, told TheDC in an email Thursday that the committee has received Lighthizer’s tax returns and completed questionnaire, “as well as the final and official financial disclosure and ethics agreement from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).”
“The bipartisan vetting process for Mr. Lighthizer to serve at the next U.S. Trade Representative is well underway and the Committee will announce the details for his hearing as soon as they become available,” Forbes added. President Barack Obama’s trade representative was confirmed on March 18, 2009 and President George W. Bush’s trade representative was confirmed on Feb. 6, 2001.