After months of delays and requiring a waiver allowing him to serve as the U.S. trade representative (USTR), Robert Lighthizer was finally confirmed by the Senate on a vote of 82-14.
The delays in this vote were for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, a section of the Trade Act of 1974 excludes anyone who has “directly represented, aided or advised a foreign entity … in any trade negotiation, or trade dispute” from serving as USTR. Lighthizer had represented Brazilian and Chinese entities in past trade disputes. Senate Democrats also delayed action on his confirmation by demanding concessions to address a shortfall in pension funding for miners. More recently, several Republican senators, including Sen. Jon McCain, questioned Lighthizer’s position on agricultural trade and his stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Lighthizer was a deputy USTR during the Reagan administration and has been representing U.S. corporations for the last three decades in international trade remedy litigation as a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.