Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Trade Representative
Religion & Liberty Online

Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Trade Representative

Note: This is the post #19 in a weekly series of explanatory posts on the officials and agencies included in the President’s Cabinet. See the series introduction here.

Cabinet position: U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)

Department:  Office of the United States Trade Representative, which is part of the Executive Office of the President

Current Representative: Robert Lighthizer

Department Mission: “The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries.” (Source)

Department Budget: $59,376,000 (FY2017)

Number of employees: 248

Primary Duties of the Secretary: Serves as the president’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues. The USTR also coordinates trade policy, resolves disagreements, and frames issues for presidential decision. USTR also serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), is on the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is a non-voting member of the Export-Import Bank Board of Directors, and a member of the National Advisory Council on International Monetary and Financial Policies. (Source)


Ambassador Info

Ambassador:  Robert E. Lighthizer (sworn in on May 15, 2017)

Previous occupation: Partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (Skadden) where he practiced international trade law.

Education: Bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University and his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center.

Previous government experience: Deputy USTR for President Ronald Reagan; Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Finance for Chairman Bob Dole.

Notable achievements:

Served as treasurer for the Kansas Republican’s presidential campaign in 1996.

Notable quotes:

On trade “fairness”: “On a purely intellectual level, how does allowing China to constantly rig trade in its favor advance the core conservative goal of making markets more efficient? Markets do not run better when manufacturing shifts to China largely because of the actions of its government. Nor do they become more efficient when Chinese companies are given special privileges in global markets, while American companies must struggle to compete with unfairly traded goods.”

On NAFTA: “As a starting point for negotiations, we should build on what has worked in NAFTA and change and improve what has not. If renegotiations result in a fairer deal for American workers there is value in making the transition to a modernized NAFTA as seamless as possible.”

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): “The United States pulled out of the TPP and it’s not going to change that decision. That does not mean we will not engage in this region. The president made a decision, that I certainly agree with, that bilateral negotiations are better for the United States than multilateral negotiations.”


Previous and forthcoming posts in this series: Vice PresidentSecretary of StateSecretary of the TreasurySecretary of Education, Secretary of LaborSecretary of Defense, Attorney GeneralSecretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of CommerceSecretary of Health and Human ServicesSecretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of EnergySecretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland SecurityWhite House Chief of Staff, U.S. Trade Representative, Director of National Intelligence, Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).