U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is expected to pick Robert Lighthizer to serve as his U.S. Trade Representative, tapping a seasoned trade negotiator to enact a key aspect of his agenda, senior transition officials said on Monday.
Lighthizer served as a deputy U.S. trade representative with the rank of ambassador under Republican President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, according to a biography posted on the web site of Skadden Arps, the law firm where he is currently a partner.
In the decades since he has represented U.S. clients in antidumping cases and pushed to open access to foreign markets, the biography says.
As Trump’s trade representative, Lighthizer would play a key role in enacting a get-tough policy that could heighten tensions with China and other key U.S. trading partners.
However, he likely will not serve as the main architect of Trump’s trade policy. According to a transition spokesman, that role will go to billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, who Trump has picked to serve as Commerce Secretary.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to renegotiate international trade deals like NAFTA and punish companies that ship work overseas.
Trump has kept up the rhetoric since his surprise November election. He criticized China on Twitter on Monday for “taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade” while refusing to rein in nuclear-armed North Korea.