A New Administration: Who Has Been Nominated to Guide and Implement U.S. Trade Policy?

President Donald Trump, who was sworn in on Friday, has wasted little time in keeping U.S. trade policy at the top of his agenda. More specifically, he is focusing on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and placing high tariffs on imports coming from China. Who has President Trump selected to be a part of a team that will promote and implement his trade agenda? This blog post is the third and final part of GRIIT’s series on the new administration and international trade in 2017 (see A New Direction for International Trade Policies? The Potential Impact on U.S. Businesses and Trump’s Trade Policy Toward China and Recommendations for Importers and Exporters).

 

U.S. Commerce Secretary

Wilbur Ross, who was nominated by Trump last year to head the U.S. Department of Commerce, is a multi-billionaire investor known for buying and restructuring distressed companies and selling them for a profit.

In a prepared testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Ross indicated that he was not anti-trade. Rather, he supports trade that also benefits the American worker and the U.S. manufacturing sector. Furthermore, he expressed the importance of the United States not putting up with unfair trade practices such as subsidies.

The commerce secretary represents U.S. businesses in the Cabinet. The U.S. Department of Commerce focuses on job creation and economic growth.

Ross’ nomination has not gone without scrutiny. According to a recent Reuters report, Ross has run companies that has sent about 2,700 jobs from the United States to other countries for the past 13 years. On the other hand, National Public Radio reported in December 2016 that Ross has the support of labor unions, such as the United Steelworkers union, because of his record of buying dying companies, restructuring with input from many blue-collar workers, and saving those companies along with jobs and benefits.

 

U.S. Trade Representative

Robert Lighthizer, who served as deputy U.S. trade representative under the late President Ronald Reagan and is an international trade lawyer, has been selected by President Trump to serve as the U.S. Trade Representative.

In response to his nomination earlier this month, Ambassador Lighthizer said, “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.” Ambassador Lighthizer has been a critic of China’s trade practices and strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

The Office of U.S. Trade Representative is responsible for negotiating U.S. trade deals and advising the U.S. president on trade policy.

 

White House Trade Council Director

Last month, Peter Navarro, was selected to serve as the director of the newly created White House Trade Council, which will focus on U.S. trade and industrial policy. Navarro is a UC Irvine professor of economics and public policy who has a been staunch critic of China’s trade practices.
According to GreatAgain.gov:

The mission of the National Trade Council will be to advise the President on innovative strategies in trade negotiations, coordinate with other agencies to assess U.S. manufacturing capabilities and the defense industrial base, and help match unemployed American workers with new opportunities in the skilled manufacturing sector. The National Trade Council will also lead the Buy America, Hire America program….

 

Overall, the selected individuals support trade policies that benefit U.S. workers and address the unfair, illegal trade practices by U.S. trading partners. These selections are important because of the impact that each individual will have on policies that affect U.S. businesses and workers in the global economic context.

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