America faces two great trade challenges — Mexico and China — and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he is committed to changing U.S. policy toward both.
Lighthizer (shown above left), the point man for fulfilling President Donald Trump’s “America First” campaign promises, said on “The Ingraham Angle” Tuesday night that Mexico has developed a smart industrial policy to lure automobile manufacturers. The country takes advantage of tariff-free exports to the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he said.
“It we renegotiate that deal, if we get a good deal with Mexico — and hopefully with Canada, if that’s possible — we’re going to find more jobs,” he said.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham noted that 77 percent of vehicles exported from Mexico arrive in the United States.
“You say 77 percent. For some companies, it’s even higher,” Lighthizer said. A lot of these companies, he continued, have very few products that are made in America. “So they’re low [on] U.S. content. And the kind of thing we’re looking at is to have a better balance.”
The Trump administration has been trying since last year to revise the quarter-century-old trade pact with Mexico and Canada, but negotiations have been moving slowly. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC last month that it remains a real possibility that the Trump administration might walk away from NAFTA altogether.
“To me, it’s complete nonsense to say we don’t need manufacturing.”
Lighthizer sidestepped a question from Ingraham about how the president’s plans to build a border wall might affect the relationship with Mexico. He said a wall is needed but added that he otherwise stays in his “lane.”
“My lane is really about trying to get new deals,” he said. “It’s trying to reverse a very bad trend that we’ve had for a long, long time in the trade area. The president ran on this. He feels strongly about it.”
The same goes for trade with China, Lighthizer said.
“We have a very, very imbalanced relationship with China, and, once again, it’s not based on basic economics,” he said. “It’s based on an industrial policy” pursued by Beijing for many years at America’s expense.”
Lighthizer rejected critics who contend that a shrinking manufacturing sector simply is the mark of a high-tech economy where advanced technology reduces the need for manufacturing workers. He said Japan and Germany have plenty of manufacturing jobs.
“Those are still great jobs, very important jobs, and they spin off wealth to thousands and millions and millions of people … To me, it’s complete nonsense to say we don’t need manufacturing,” he said.
Lighthizer also pushed back against suggestions that Trump does not know the details of trade policy.
“The president is beyond engaged,” he said. “He cares about jobs and wages. Politics never comes up.”