Vastine advises on trade policy in President-Elect Trump’s administration

Posted in News

Image of Vastine

Thursday, January 5, 2017

As the inauguration of President-Elect Trump approaches, Senior Industry and Innovation Fellow Bob Vastine has been asked to comment in a collection of pieces regarding trade policy of the incoming administration:

Lighthizer should have fairly smooth sailing through the hearing and in a Senate confirmation voteBloomberg/BNA(January 5, 2017)
Robert Vastine, a senior industry and innovation fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Business and Public Policy, told Bloomberg BNA that he can’t imagine any opposition to the nomination from Democrats. Lighthizer was chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee under the chairmanship of Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), whom Vastine said was known for his bipartisanship. “Partisan animosities seem out of place in this case because he is such a known quantity,” Vastine said, describing Lighthizer as politically savvy and as a very tough negotiator. Vastine worked for Senate Finance Committee member Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) when Lighthizer was chief of staff.

Trump’s Trade Agenda Would ‘Turn Back the Clock to Another Age’ (new window)Foreign Policy (December 22, 2016)
Embracing bilateral deals and new tariffs, the incoming president casts a zero-sum view on world trade. […] And the threats of punitive tariffs may not have been left on the campaign trail, either. CNN reported Thursday that Trump is considering slapping tariffs, perhaps of high as 10 percent, on all imports after taking office. That would likely violate WTO rules, and could spark retaliation from trading partners, which would weigh on U.S. exports. The Trump transition team said Thursday it is too early to discuss specifics of future trade policy. “It’s gruesome. It’s shocking that he wants to turn back the clock to another age, to a manufacturing economy,” said J. Robert Vastine, a former Treasury Department trade official in the Ford administration. “Somehow we get there by abdicating trade agreements? I just can’t believe it.”

Trade hawks to rule the roost in Trump’s White House (new window)Financial Times (December 22, 2016)
But Mr Navarro’s appointment is the clearest signal yet that Mr Trump, who has praised Death by China as “right on” and an “important” film that “depicts our problem with China with facts, figures and insight”, is prepared to be radical when it comes to trade. “He [Navarro] is a proto-protectionist,” said Bob Vastine, who oversaw trade policy in the US Treasury during the Ford administration and now teaches at Georgetown University. Mr Vastine also sees the focus on manufacturing in the incoming administration as a risk to the interests of other successful sectors of the US economy that are dependent for growth on overseas markets such as China. “[The Trump trade team] is a discouraging team from the standpoint of the technology and services [industries] because it looks back. Trump wants to create old jobs that are lost. We’re not going to make brooms again, or plastic dish pans.”