WASHINGTON—In his nearly four years in office, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer helped move protectionism from the fringes of American poli
WASHINGTON—In his nearly four years in office, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer helped move protectionism from the fringes of American policy-making to the core. His advice to the Biden administration: Stay the course.
Keep tariffs on China—all of them—even if that raises prices for U.S. businesses and consumers, he said. Weaken the World Trade Organization so that it can’t overrule U.S. policies, and make it harder for American companies to move overseas despite the cost to their competitiveness.
In an interview, Mr. Lighthizer credited the Trump administration with taking a tough approach toward Chinese trade practices that benefited U.S. workers—ending years of accommodation by previous administrations fearful of angering Beijing.
“We changed the way people think about China,” Mr. Lighthizer said. “We want a China policy that thinks about the geopolitical competition between the United States and an adversary—an economic adversary.”
The 73-year-old Mr. Lighthizer—tall, gravelly voiced and pugnacious—was the engineer who helped steer the Trump administration’s economic confrontation with China. He turned President Trump’s anger at Beijing into a two-year trade war where he deployed tariffs on a scale not seen since the 1930s.