Trading with Trump: Changing how the US does business

Donald Trump is set to name a protectionism advocate to lead the US Trade Representative office in a move that would signal a commitment to carry through on his hard-line campaign commitments to re-write the rule book when it comes to doing business with the US.

Robert Lighthizer previously served as a trade official under Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s and is set to lead the country’s efforts to demand better trade terms with other nations. Mr Trump’s comments on the campaign trail focused on China and Mexico in particular.

The US President-elect has threatened to put tariffs on goods from Mexico and China if they do not agree to amend trade deals.

The Wall St Journal’s sources indicate that the appointment is imminent and that talks on new trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or a deal with the EU will be ‘set to one side’ as new trade deals will not be made a priority during the first period of Mr Trump’s time in the Oval Office.

Donald Trump says he will issue an executive action on his first day in office to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) – he has described the deal as a “potential disaster” for the US.

His Commerce Secretary, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro – the China-skeptic economist who wrote Death By China and will be the head of Mr Trump’s new trade council – will play leading roles in future trade negotiations.

Chinese yuan notes

In an opinion piece for The New York Times in 2008, Mr Lighthizer said that supporters of free trade “embrace their ideal with a passion that makes Robespierre seem prudent.”

“They embrace unbridled free trade, even as it helps China become a superpower. They see only bright lines, even when it means bowing to the whims of anti-American bureaucrats at the World Trade Organisation. They oppose any trade limitations, even if we must depend on foreign countries to feed ourselves or equip our military,” he continued – adding that it is an ideal favoured by ‘liberal elites.’

China has indicated that it will be ready to retaliate if the US pursues an aggressive trade policy.

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