Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
USA | By Kelli Rowe

Trump's trade nominee gets broad Senate support

Trump's trade nominee gets broad Senate support

Reagan-era trade attorney Robert Lighthizer was easily confirmed on Thursday (May 11) as President Donald Trump's United States trade representative, bringing a tough protectionist approach to national policy. Lighthizer is the last of the Trump administration's cabinet-level appointments to win Senate confirmation.

On his second day in office last month, Perdue reportedly helped persuade Trump not to withdraw from the NAFTA, arguing that doing so would hurt USA farmers.

Lighthizer was deputy US trade representative under President Ronald Reagan and has worked on trade issues as a lawyer representing various manufacturers and high-tech companies. John McCain of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in a two-page letter to Lighthizer that his confirmation process had failed to reassure them he understands the economic benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

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The senators said they doubted that Lighthizer would, if confirmed, champion agriculture and negotiate trade deals to the benefit of American consumers and the economy.

The vote was 82-14 despite frustration among some Republicans with the administration on trade.

Some of Lighthizer's most vocal support has come from Democratic lawmakers.

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And Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., also voted for Lighthizer, telling reporters that she had met with him and was comfortable with his responses to questions about the importance of trade to agriculture.

Responding to a March 31 executive order by Trump for a review of the US trade deficit, Mexico said its trade surplus with the United States was misunderstood and that the real hit to USA manufacturing jobs came with China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.

Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and voted in favor of Lighthizer's nomination, also urged the incoming trade representative not to put at risk the gains NAFTA had brought.

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"He told me multiple times that ag will be at the negotiating table for all trade agreements that we need to have", Fischer said.

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