Lighthizer Confirmed as U.S. Trade Representative After Waiver Approval

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
lighthizer confirmed as u s trade representative after waiver approval

I hope you’re fond of domestic automobiles.

The Trump administration is setting the table to make importing cars more difficult with the U.S. Senate confirming Robert Lighthizer in an 82-14 vote as the U.S. trade representative, prepping the country for an assertive trust from the White House’s America First trade strategy.

Lighthizer will lead communicating U.S. trade policy with Congress and foreign countries, especially as they relate to expected changes to import taxes. (In case you’re wondering, he is absolutely, unequivocally, a 110 percent for them.) Lighthizer has even claimed using tariffs to promote American industry was a “Republican tenet” dating back to the establishment of the party.

Voting results aide, it was actually a close call for the country’s new trade representative. Investigators discovered Lighthizer represented the Brazilian government 30 years ago in a trade dispute with U.S. ethanol producers and he was required to obtain a special waiver to bypass the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The waiver had to pass through Congress and receive the president’s signature before Lighthizer was eligible office.

Under the law, no person who has previously represented a foreign government in a trade negotiations against the U.S. can head the trade representative’s office. Congress had previously waived the ban for Charlene Barshefsky, President Clinton’s choice for the position in 1997.

Lighthizer overcame some unexpected opposition from several Republican senators, including John McCain and Ben Sasse, who were attempting to block his confirmation. According to Bloomberg, the pair voted against his appointment, along with Republican Cory Gardner, after voicing strong concerns over the administration’s protectionist rhetoric and plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Other no votes included Democrats Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

If protectionism is what they’re concerned with, their worries are well-founded. Lighthizer has repeatedly condemned China for unfair trade practices and, in a 2011 article for The Washington Times about Trump, he wrote:

“The icon of modern conservatism, Ronald Reagan, imposed quotas on imported steel, protected Harley-Davidson from Japanese competition, restrained import of semiconductors and automobiles, and took myriad similar steps to keep American industry strong. The same can be said of Richard Nixon. In 1971, Nixon imposed a temporary tariff on all imports in response to what he perceived to be unfair foreign economic policies.”

I don’t know if Mr. Lighthizer has ever ridden a Harley from the Reagan administration, but there was a good reason for the company to fear Japanese imports — and protecting it didn’t help it improve the build quality of its products through the ’80s. Then again, the HD motorcycle brand may not be what it is today without a little help from the government.

Still, the idea of restricting the importation of any motorized product to better serve a domestic company is guaranteed to be controversial topic among enthusiasts. We can look back at Malaise-era automobiles with nostalgia, but nobody wants to see them return.

One of Lighthizer’s first tasks will be to consult Congress on the administration’s NAFTA plans, which Trump has been adamant about reforming — if not abolishing altogether. Afterward, its likely he’ll tackle existing trade deals with South Korea and play hardball with China. The administration has promised to strictly enforce all existing trade rules, especially those in Asia. During his confirmation hearing, Lighthizer stated he would bring “as many actions as are justified” to the World Trade Organization and bilateral dispute panels.

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13 of 17 comments
  • Thirty-three Thirty-three on May 12, 2017

    It's a good thing that Honda, Toyota and others are already manufacturing cars in the US. I'm sure they use lots of imported parts, but I suspect GM, Ford and FCA do as well.


    If Trump REALLY wants to do right, he needs to call or tweet GM and demand that Oldsmobiles become built again!

    • See 10 previous
    • Heino Heino on May 15, 2017

      @28-Cars-Later MOGA! MOGA! MOGA! MOGA!

  • Wolfwagen IIRC I remember reading somewhere that the Porsche Cayenne was supposed to have a small gasoline-powered block heater. There was a loop in the cooling system that ran to the heater and when the temperature got to a certain point (0°C)the vehicle's control unit would activate the heater. I dont know if this was a concept or if it ever made it into production.
  • Jeffro As I sit here this morning with my 2 day old TRD OFF ROAD 4RUNNER tucked safely away in the garage, my head spins with this weird desire to locate a 85 LTD equipped with the epic 😵‍💫2.3 and the FOUR ON THE FLOOR. THE HOLY GRAIL. Ying and yang baby!The search begins.
  • ToolGuy 404 error on the product link. Which probably isn't terrific marketing on TTAC's part.
  • ToolGuy Second picture: Do you like pegboard storage? (I don't.)
  • ToolGuy "WHAT???"(old 'I was in the artillery' joke)