At a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Lighthizer did not stray far from the views of his president, vowing to crack down on unfair trade practices by China and suggesting the U.S. needs “imaginative” solutions and a “multi-faceted approach” on trade litigation. The USTR, was mandated in 1962 to “negotiate directly with foreign governments to create trade agreements, to resolve disputes, and to participate in global trade policy organizations.”
Lighthizer has suggested the World Trade Organization (WTO) is poorly-equipped to deal with “troubling” Chinese overproduction of steel and other exports, arguing, “I don’t believe that the WTO was set up to deal effectively for a country like China and their industrial policy.”
He also penned an op-ed in the Washington Times in 2011 defending Trump’s criticism of Chinese trade, “How does allowing China to constantly rig trade in its favor advance the core conservative goal of making markets more efficient? Markets do not run better when manufacturing shifts to China largely because of the actions of its government. Nor do they become more efficient when Chinese companies are given special privileges in global markets, while American companies must struggle to compete with unfairly traded goods.”
Lighthizer is also on record declaring the trade deficit with China as “widely recognized as a major threat to our economy.” He has also come out strong against Chinese attempts to keep its exchange rate competitive by keeping the yuan artificially weak, arguing “In the past, it is my judgment that China was a substantial currency manipulator,” Lighthizer said. “Whether China is manipulating the currency right now is another question. That’s up to the Treasury secretary.”
Lighthizer is the latest among several Trump appointees who have argued for a tougher approach to Chinese trade. Peter Navarro, an economist and author of “Death by China” was recently selected to head the newly-formed White House National Trade Council.