America’s Trade Chief Has a Bold New Plan. U.S. Companies, Beware

This op-ed originally appeared in Barron’s on 9/14/20

Anna Moneymaker/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Robert Lighthizer has set out a bold new plan for U.S. trade policy that, if implemented, could effectively end America’s leadership in promoting open, free, and fair trade. In a recent op-ed, the U.S. trade representative railed against the World Trade Organization and trade deals. Some of his themes are familiar; others new. But unless Washington stops trying to make the entire world follow its rules rather than working toward consensus, U.S. companies are going to face tough times abroad. If “America First” continues to mean that America goes it alone, U.S. consumers will eventually feel the pain as well. 

Lighthizer’s new approach to trade policy takes particular aim at bilateral trade deals that he says “discriminate in favor of preferred trading partners.” That’s an odd argument to make considering the administration has pursued new bilateral deals, including one with the United Kingdom that has stalled while London attempts to leave the European Union, and initiated negotiations with Kenya in July. The White House has also relied on a bilateral deal with Japan to gain access for U.S. beef exports. I asked the U.S. trade representative’s office to comment on these inconsistencies and other issues raised by Lighthizer’s op-ed, but they did not respond. 

. . . for the full op-ed head to Barron’s (outside the paywall)

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