U.S. Trade Consultant Robert Lighthizer was looking forward to some holiday peace and rest after wrapping up trade agreements with the U.S.’ most essential trading partners – Canada, China, and Mexico – last week.
Instead, the long-standing member of President Donald Trump’s inner circle who usually avoids public appearances found himself doing wall-to-wall interviews, scrambling to clear a misunderstanding with the Mexican government and taking criticisms from his fellow Republicans in Congress.
The conservative Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece that mentioned the Trump administration had surrendered to “politically managed trade” in agreeing to Democratic demands to revamp the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), while former USTR officers and investment analysts followed the Phase 1 U.S.-China trade agreement as falling far short of expectations.
Lighthizer, 72, is an exception in today’s hyper-partisan Washington, an influential member of Trump’s White House, who has sometimes triumphed grudging praise from Dems and Republicans while keeping the ear and respect of the president throughout.
The USMCA, which will exchange the North American Free Trade Settlement, and the China trade contract had been two of Trump’s top priorities, and landing them in the same week was a public relations achievement.
However, the efforts to roll in those offers took longer and proved harder than anticipated, and triggered further questions.
Critics say a few of that is a byproduct of Lighthizer’s tight-fisted negotiating style. Congressional sources and former U.S. government officers say he’s at all times well-prepared, however, he can seem arrogant and unwilling to commit.
Lighthizer is also prone to slamming down the cellphone in anger, Representative Richard Neal, the Dem chairperson of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, informed reporters last week.