The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Robert Lighthizer, who has indicated his willingness to further pry open Japan’s agricultural market, to be a point man on President Donald Trump’s trade policy.
In an 82-14 vote, the Senate approved Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative, to assume a major role in trade talks with other countries under Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Lighthizer served as deputy USTR under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and has a reputation for being a tough negotiator. He is credited with having Japan introduce a self-imposed ceiling on its steel exports to the United States.
During his Senate confirmation hearing in March, Lighthizer indicated that the United States will push Japan to further open its agriculture sector in envisaged bilateral negotiations.
“I would list, of course, Japan as being a primary target for a place where increased access for agriculture is important,” he said.
Lighthizer is also going to spearhead upcoming renegotiations on the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
In his USTR role, Lighthizer will closely coordinate with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, head of the newly created White House National Trade Council.
Following the confirmation vote, agriculture groups stressed the importance of trade.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Robert Lighthizer to be the U.S. Trade Representative. With a growing global marketplace, Craig Uden, NCBA president, said expanding international markets is a top priority for cattlemen.
“International trade is vital to the success of America’s cattle industry and in his new role, Ambassador Lighthizer will serve as our chief negotiator in all trade matters. As Ambassador Lighthizer begins his new job, we urge him to focus his efforts on opening and expanding our access to other markets and preventing any action that may hinder our export growth.”
U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) welcome the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Robert Lighthizer as the next U.S. Trade Representative. “We look forward to working with Amb. Lighthizer to help build new export opportunities for the farmers we represent,” said David Schemm, NAWG President and a wheat farmer from Sharon Springs, KS. “To that end, we also encourage him to quickly name a new U.S. Agricultural Trade Ambassador to represent agricultural interests in the upcoming re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and trade negotiations with Asia-Pacific nations.”
American Soybean Association (ASA) President and Illinois farmer Ron Moore expressed congratulations and cited Lighthizer’s understanding of the important role trade plays in the U.S. economy and agriculture community. “Lighthizer’s confirmation to USTR is an encouraging step in developing trade policies that continue to promote U.S. food and agriculture production,” Moore said.