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Donald Trump inauguration

Trump to name Reagan veteran Robert Lighthizer as US trade representative

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 10:58am

US president-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate Robert Lighthizer as the US trade representative, a transition official confirmed on Monday night, recruiting to his cabinet a veteran of the Reagan administration who has decades of experience in trade policy and litigation.

Lighthizer, whose nomination is expected to be formally announced as early as Tuesday, will join a team of Trump lieutenants charged with fulfilling one the central promises of Trump’s populist candidacy: aggressively confronting China, Mexico and other nations the president-elect believes have been taking advantage of international trade agreements to the detriment of US workers.

In the run-up to his January 20 inauguration, Trump will be making a flurry of final nominations for his Cabinet as well as filling out the senior positions in his White House. Trump has recruited Marc Short, who has been serving as a top adviser to vice-president-elect Mike Pence, to the West Wing, likely as head of legislative affairs, two people with knowledge of the position said Monday night.

Short is a veteran operative with deep ties on Capitol Hill and is respected by Republican leaders in both chambers. He served as Pence’s chief of staff during his time in Congress and later worked as president of Freedom Partners, the powerful political network of the billionaire industrialist brothers, Charles and David Koch.

A long-time Pence loyalist and confidant, Short joined Trump’s 2016 campaign team as an adviser to Pence once the Indianan received the vice-presidential nod. He earlier advised Republican Senator Marco Rubio on his 2016 presidential campaign.

Though some in the Pence orbit were initially sceptical of Trump and his team, Short quickly established himself as a conduit between the Pence and Trump worlds and earned the respect of Trump. He has been an influential figure behind the scenes during the transition period, both in weighing personnel decisions and charting the policy agenda.

Mike Allen, co-founder of Axios, a new media company, first reported Short’s position in a tweet.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report that Lighthizer, long considered a favourite to be trade representative, would become Trump’s nominee.

Short and Lighthizer bring to the Trump team years of experience in Washington. Lighthizer served as deputy US trade representative under president Ronald Reagan, and before that as chief of staff on the Senate Finance Committee.

Lighthizer has deep roots in the Republican establishment, having served as national treasurer for former Senate majority leader Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. Lighthizer currently works as a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he specializes in international trade issues.

In the Trump administration, Lighthizer will work closely on trade issues with Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who is the nominee for commerce secretary, and Peter Navarro, an economist and China hawk who has been tapped to lead a new White House National Trade Council.