Trump pick for trade post heads to Senate for hearing

Associated Press

Washington — President Donald Trump’s pick to represent the U.S. in trade negotiations faces Republican senators at his confirmation hearing Tuesday who are more supportive of free trade than he is.

Robert Lighthizer is an experienced trade official who has criticized some Republicans for being too pro-free trade. Trump has nominated him to be the U.S. trade representative. His hearing begins Tuesday afternoon.

Lighthizer has said that, historically, conservatives have been skeptical of “unbridled free-trade policies.”

Lighthizer served as deputy U.S. trade representative under President Ronald Reagan. He would play a key role in Trump’s trade agenda.

Trump has broken with most Republicans in his criticism of free trade agreements. He has vigorously opposed the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pact and has said he will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

NAFTA was negotiated by President Bill Clinton. It was ratified by the Senate with broad Republican support.

Trump has said he would ink one-on-one trade deals with individual countries. Trump has also signaled a tough stance on trade with China, including levying a hefty tariff on Chinese imports.

Lighthizer, who played a senior role during Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign, has more recently worked on trade issues as a lawyer, representing manufacturing, agricultural and high-tech companies, according to his law firm biography. Lighthizer’s bio also states that he focused on “market-opening trade actions on behalf of U.S. companies seeking access to foreign markets.”