Robert Lighthizer will be sworn in at U.S. Trade Representative at 3pm today. The occasion comes after a months-long confirmation process, in which he was finally confirmed by an 82-14 Senate vote last Thursday.
Despite the overwhelming consensus, two notable Republicans, John McCain of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, voted against his confirmation due to Lighthizer’s stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). According to the GOP Senators, they do not believe Lighthizer understands “the North American Free Trade Agreement’s positive economic benefits to our respective states and the nation as a whole” (U.S. News & World Report). They claimed to fear Lighthizer did not appreciate the jobs created by NAFTA and worried he would not be a champion of U.S. agriculture.
The delay on Lighthizer’s confirmation has hindered President Trump’s trade agenda, especially in regard to his goal of renegotiating NAFTA. Before this formal process begins, the Trump administration must send a declaration letter to Congress detailing its intention to initiate negotiations in 90 days (Reuters). Renegotiations would likely focus on Mexico, as the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico has ballooned since the establishment of NAFTA in 1994 and has been largely criticized by the President.
In addition to renegotiating NAFTA, Lighthizer is expected to tackle other trade issues detailed by the Trump administration. This includes establishing bilateral trade deals with allies like the United Kingdom and Japan, and take a tougher stance on China (Politico). Future trade policy will have an “America First” focus, with the goal of bringing back manufacturing and other industrial jobs back to the U.S.
After Lighthizer is sworn in today, the Trump administration will be able to begin acting on measures outlined in President’s campaign. This could mean a lot of changes for trade. To stay up to date with all things related to trade, follow Mercatura Global on Twitter.