Personnel continues to be the story of Donald Trump’s presidency. On trade, the Trump administration’s point men are charged with carrying out a populist mandate while keeping careful not to spoil a superb economy. The reformers must also placate free-trade evangelists, such as economic advisor Lawrence Kudlow, in their own ranks. Firmly in the barrel is Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative and shepherd of the NAFTA renegotiation.
On Monday morning, the White House gathered reporters for a call to hail the merits of an apparently new, unilateral trade deal with Mexico. “With respect to the United States and Mexico, we have an agreement that is absolutely terrific,” a senior administration official told reporters. “I think it’s going to modernize the way we do automobile trade, and I think it’s going to set the rules for the future at the highest standards in any agreement yet negotiated by any two nations for things like intellectual property, and digital trade, and financial services.”
Behind the scenes, the administration is getting considerable pressure to modernize the American arrangement with Canada and Mexico over intellectual property.