Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said Thursday that he voted against Lighthizer, in spite of their general agreement on trade issues, because he wants Senate Republicans to agree to meetings with Justice Department officials regarding President Donald Trump's firing of James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Most Republicans and Democrats backed Lighthizer, saying they hope he brings a serious approach to the White House's push for fair trade terms for the U.S. President Trump hreatened to end U.S. participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement, but after recent conversations with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto he said he'd try to renegotiate it first. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, is expected to involve himself in trade issues, including an effort to renegotiate NAFTA. Both Mexico and Canada have already set their processes in motion.
Although Lighthizer was confirmed in a landslide, notable Senators, such as John McCain, voted against him, citing fears that Lighthizer's renegotiation of NAFTA will hurt states like Arizona which depend on free trade. "We need to find out ways to minimize the NAFTA risks".
Guajardo was speaking after Trump indicated he wanted to get the USA trade deficit with Mexico down to zero. That figure has expanded greatly since NAFTA became law in 1994. This is especially troubling because confirming a USTR grants the Administration additional legal authority to negotiate trade deals that Congress must consider under "fast track" procedures.
Following the confirmation vote, agriculture groups stressed the importance of trade.
Republicans who still support the multilateral deals of the past are hopeful that Lighthizer's background in the Reagan administration means he will be more thoughtful than some of Trump's Twitter diplomacy on trade. He represented U.S. steel companies who battled with Chinese peers over alleged unfair practices.
Trump almost bailed on NAFTA. By law, when Trump triggers the 90-day consultation, he must specifically detail what he wants to change in the agreement and schedule a time period for negotiations. "We will continue to urge USTR to focus on protecting Mexico, our No. 1 market, insist that Canada revoke its detrimental new milk pricing policy, and pursue additional export opportunities around the world". "Our trade deficit with China has exploded, millions of US manufacturing jobs have been lost".
He said it was likely Guajardo would meet his counterpart in Hanoi as part of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade minister's meeting on May 20-21.