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#Business,#USPolitics: China calls US 'a shooting star' in history as Donald Trump picks protectionist trade chief

Donald Trump’s choice of Robert Lighthizer as chief trade negotiator is likely to further alarm China after the appointment of hawkish Peter Navarro as trade adviser. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
                                                                   

Donald Trump has doubled down on his plans to transform US trade policy, picking a longtime China critic and protectionist to be America’s next chief trade negotiator.


Robert Lighthizer, 69, has advocated for increasing tariffs and repeatedly criticised China for failing to adhere to international trade practices, saying tougher methods were needed to change the system. 



The move is likely to further alarm Beijing, where state-controlled media said on Wednesday “Trump is just fixated on trade” and warned the president elect “not try to boss China around” on economic and security issues.

“May the arrogant Americans realise that the United States of America is perhaps just a shooting star in the ample sky of history,” said an editorial in the Communist party-affiliated Global Times newspaper.

It follows the selection by Trump last month of Peter Navarro to lead a new presidential office for US trade and industrial policy. Navarro has previously described China’s government as a “despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power”. 

                      


Trump has packed his cabinet with tycoons, vowed to renegotiate trade deals and crack down on what he says are China’s unfair policies.

Lighthizer is a former Reagan-era trade official and had a previous stint in the Office of the US Trade Representative, where he travelled the world negotiating deals to curb steel imports. He then went on to a career as a trade lawyer, representing giants such as US Steel Corp working to fend off foreign imports.

In 2011, he wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Times: “How does allowing China to constantly rig trade in its favour advance the core conservative goal of making markets more efficient? Markets do not run better when manufacturing shifts to China largely because of the actions of its government.”

While less prone to bombast than Navarro, he and Lighthizer share the view that China’s economic policies are fundamentally flawed. “Years of passivity and drift among US policymakers have allowed the US-­China trade deficit to grow to the point where it is widely recognised as a major threat to our economy,” Lighthizer wrote. “Going forward, US policymakers should take these problems more seriously, and should take a much more aggressive approach in dealing with China.”
Many policies Lighthizer has advocated are the same that experts worry will spark a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, and he joins an economic team disposed to taking a hard line with China.

Trump said Lighthizer would “fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first”. “He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity,” Trump said in announcing Lighthizer’s return to the trade office after a three-decade absence.

Shen Dingli, the head of the centre for American studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University. “Everyone needs to calm down and be tranquil and allow international organisations like the World Trade Organisation to resolve issues.

“As long as China isn’t breaking the rules, it has nothing to fear from America’s hard line.”

But those rules may be set to change as Trump reshapes economic policies. He has said he will withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a signature trade deal of Barack Obama’s presidency, on his first day in office.

Louis Kuijs, the head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics and a former senior China economist at the World Bank, said: “There is almost no guessing, economic policy under Trump will become more nationalistic and more interventionist. It’s very clear their policies will be especially tough on China.”
                                                          

Trump will be much more involved in the minutia of trade policy, Kuijs said, a dramatic shift away from the past three administrations which generally saw free trade as something beneficial to the economy and where presidents simply set the broad strokes of policy.

“The Trump administration will put very little effort into multilateral trade agreements,” Kuijis added. “It will be hard to sit around a table with Trump’s team and agree on mutually beneficial deals.”

His appointment still needs to be confirmed by the Senate, and Orrin Hatch, the Republican head of the finance committee, said he looked “forward to a vigorous discussion of Bob’s trade philosophy and priorities”.
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