Donald Trump taps Robert Lighthizer, China hawk, to take over talks with Beijing

December 3, 2018

President Trump has named China hawk Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, to lead trade talks with Beijing.

The move was confirmed Monday by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, another leading advocate of cracking down on China’s trade abuses.

“He’s the toughest negotiator we’ve ever at the USTR and he’s going to go chapter and verse and get tariffs down, non-tariff barriers down and end all these structural practices that prevent market access,” Mr. Navarro said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Mr. Lighthizer took over the negotiations after a breakthrough at a dinner meeting Saturday between Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires, where the leaders attended the Group of 20 leaders summit.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, who is closer to the U.S. financial sector and viewed as less aggressive on China, previously had been leading the negotiations.

At the dinner, the U.S. agreed to a 90-day delay of higher tariffs that were set to hit China on Jan. 1 and Beijing agreed to begin opening up its markets to American goods.

Mr. Trump said Beijing would lowing tariffs on cars, increase imports of U.S. agriculture and other goods. The details remain to be finalized before the new April deadline for more tariffs on Chinese goods.

The president’s get-tough tariffs are credited with forcing China to the negotiating table with offers of concessions, something Beijing vowed it would never do.

Update hourly