Trade Talk: Week in Review (20 December 2016 – 3 January 2017)
Welcome to 2017. The 115th Congress convened on Tuesday, 3 January. U.S. businessman Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, January 20.
Trump Transition News. President-Elect Trump continues to announce senior officials who will serve as part of his Administration. The Trump Transition Team noted at the end of December that those serving the incoming Administration will be there to implement his Administration’s trade agenda, not their own.
Jason Greenblatt, President-Elect Trump’s longtime attorney, was named as Special Representative for International Negotiations on 27 December. Greenblatt, who currently serves as chief legal officer and an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, will be “assisting on international negotiations of all types, and trade deals around the world.” In addition to trade agreements, Greenblatt will reportedly focus on the Israel-Palestine peace process and U.S.-Cuba relations.
On 3 January, President-Elect Trump announced Robert Lighthizer to be the next U.S. Trade Representative. Lighthizer, a lawyer, previously served as a Deputy U.S. Trade Representative during the Reagan Administration. Prior to his appointment as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Lighthizer was Chief of Staff of the Senate Finance Committee. He has also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Transition officials previously confirmed that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will continue to lead trade negotiations. They add that Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary-Designee; Dr. Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy; and Greenblatt will all be part of a “team effort” to shape the Administration’s broader trade policy, as well as play a role in future trade negotiations.
Vice President-Elect Mike Pence told the press on 3 January that at least one more Cabinet selection will be made “in the coming days.” This position may be the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has tentatively scheduled a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, President-Elect Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Secretary of State, to be held on 11 January. The nominee is expected to field questions related to his tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, as well as his ties to Russia.
NAFTA News. President-Elect Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to chastise General Motors for building cars in Mexico and shipping them “tax-free” into the United States. Ford Motor Co. announced on Tuesday that it is canceling plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Mexico and is instead investing $700 million in Michigan. CEO Mark Fields told CNN that the company’s decision is a “vote of confidence” in President-Elect Trump’s pledge to create a pro-business environment.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and nine Democrats addressed the media on Tuesday to urge President-Elect Trump “to deliver on his campaign commitments to revamp U.S. trade policy to benefit working Americans,” including by advocating for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to incorporate a “Workers’ Bill of Rights” that they argue is needed for the agreement to benefit U.S. workers.