The U.S. Senate Finance Committee after weeks of delays, has favorably reported to the full Senate, the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to be President Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative, a key post for ag trade amid Trump’s ambitious trade agenda.
The unanimous committee vote came after weeks of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, who dropped demands to extend expiring coal miners’ health and pension benefits, before voting on Lighthizer.
Democrats got Republicans to hold a separate committee vote on a waiver for Lighthizer for earlier foreign lobbying. That vote was also unanimous, clearing the way for likely Senate approval of Lighthizer, a former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in the Reagan years.
Ohio Republican and former USTR in the George W. Bush Administration, Rob Portman, stressed the importance of getting Lighthizer confirmed…
“We need Bob Lighthizer now, and I think this is a consensus issue from all of us around this table, but also of our trade negotiators. I spoke to a trade minister of one of our trading partners over the recess, who said ‘where is the coordination in trade policy. We need a USTR to be able to negotiate with the United States of America.’”
Portman who worked on several trade deals key for US agriculture during the Bush years, also pointed to comments by a Democratic colleague…
“I think the Ranking Member said it well, Senator Widen said we need to level the playing field. USTR is the tip of that spear as needed to have a consistent and coordinated policy.”
Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts argued during Sonny Perdue’s confirmation as USDA Secretary Monday, that the importance of trade for agriculture during this long-period of low prices, “cannot be overstated.”
Lighthizer and Labor Department nominee Alex Acosta are the last two Trump cabinet appointees still facing Senate confirmation votes. Acosta is expected to be confirmed this week.