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Opinion split as Trump picks protectionist-leaning trade rep Robert Lighthizer

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Oscar Rousseau

By Oscar Rousseau+

Last updated on 05-Jan-2017 at 13:33 GMT2017-01-05T13:33:39Z

US President-elect Donald Trump said Lighthizer will do an 'outstanding job'
US President-elect Donald Trump said Lighthizer will do an 'outstanding job'

Donald Trump’s appointment of Robert Lighthizer as US trade representative singles the US President-elect’s intent to change how America does business – and again, it’s a decision that has divided opinion.

This week Donald Trump named Robert Lighthizer to head the US Trade Representative (USTR) Office – the American body responsible for negotiating with foreign governments on all trade deals. Lighthizer formerly served as deputy trade representative during the Ronald Reagan administration and, more recently, has been a vocal advocate for a shift in US trade protectionism.

Trump himself made protectionism a key part of his election campaign, where he suggested America’s history of free trade deals had damaged domestic manufacturing.

Lighthizer’s appointment has divided opinion, but the president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), Barry Carpenter, told this site he was eager to work with Lighthizer and Trump.

Meat ‘trade is essential’

Current Meat Institute staff have not worked with USTR nominee Robert Lighthizer previously, but we look forward to working with him, [as well as] others in the Trump administration and Congress on trade issues moving forward,” said Carpenter.

Trade is essential for the health of the US meat and poultry industry and there are many trade opportunities around the world that would be of great benefit to the industry and US economy as a whole. The Meat Institute will actively advocate the benefits of trade and its value on behalf of the industry with the new administration.

However, activist group Friends of the Earth – which campaigns on issues such as climate change, sustainable food production and more recently for a dismantling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal – raised concerns over Lighthizer’s appointment.

‘Xenophobic’ claims

Nothing in Lighthizer’s background suggests he has any concern about the environmental and climate havoc resulting from trade deals like the pending Trade in Services Agreement,” said Friends of the Earth senior trade analyst Bill Waren in a statement.

Lighthizer might be described as a paleo-conservative – in other words a throwback to another era. He is an admirer of the isolationist Robert Taft and the racist Jesse Helms. He will fit right in to the xenophobic culture of the Trump administration.

Despite the criticism, President-elect Trump said in a statement that he expected Lighthizer to do “an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first”.

He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans.

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