Daniel Ikenson writes:
Former Reagan administration deputy U.S. trade representative and longtime trade-remedies attorney, Robert Lighthizer, is President-elect Trump’s choice for United States Trade Representative. Considered in conjunction with the appointments of Peter Navarro to head the newly-created National Trade Council at the White House (my take) and Wilbur Ross at the Commerce Department (my take), Lighthizer’s selection seems to confirm fears that U.S. trade policy is descending into darkness...I also suspect Trump may have a special tax in mind for OPEC members. He hates OPEC---has for a very long time.
Lighthizer fancies himself a conservative, although he is more aptly characterized as an economic nationalist with deep disdain for free trade. He has argued that true conservatives throughout American history have been suspicious of free trade and favored protectionism. He proudly notes that Ronald Reagan – often pegged as a free trader – imposed all sorts of protectionist measures against imported cars, motorcycles, steel, textiles, and sugar. And all of these measures were “successful,” he claims.
Despite conclusions reached after the appointments of Ross and Navarro, USTR’s role in formulating trade policy won’t be diminished, but dramatically altered. Enforcement will be the mantra and, I suspect, much of the enforcement effort will be directed at China, Mexico, and developing countries alleged to be the destinations for massive amounts of U.S. outsourcing. But the targets may change when the Trump administration comes to realize that most U.S. outward investment goes, not to China or Mexico, but to Europe.