[Adam Behsudi| December 20, 2016 |Politico]
President-elect Donald Trump met with veteran trade attorney Robert Lighthizer for 40 minutes at his Florida estate on Monday – 10 more minutes than allotted – sending out a strong signal that Trump may have found his man to lead trade negotiations for the incoming administration.
Trump appears to be focusing more attention on filling the U.S. Trade Representative position – his two main trade advisers, Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross and Dan DiMicco, a former steel company executive who is leading USTR transition efforts, headed to Trump Tower for meetings last week. The new USTR could be less influential under Trump, with sources saying Ross will be the administration’s primary architect of trade policy.
Lighthizer, who served as deputy U.S. trade representative under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, has been a supporter of Trump’s tough approach to trade with China since at least 2011, when he penned an op-ed for The Washington Times. He also has a loyalty to Bob Dole , with whom he worked when he was chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee. Dole recently laid the groundwork for that controversial Trump phone call with Taiwan and helped tilt the GOP’s platform in Taiwan’s favor. Lighthizer is also helping to direct Trump’s transition landing team at USTR. The post of USTR is one of the few Cabinet-level positions that Trump still has to fill, along with the heads of the departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs.