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President Trump Promises “the People” Will Negotiate Trade Deals, Not Washington

If one thing was clear in President Trump’s inauguration speech Friday, it was that America will come first.

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” Trump said as he assumed leadership of the United States.

And that new vision could prove negative for trade, as some of his proposals are being called protectionist—a notion the president went on to defend in that speech, saying, “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” Trump said. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

The White House website relaunched on Inauguration Day, and with it came sections outlining (in not much more detail) some of the president’s plans for certain issues, including trade.

Following the lines of his campaigning and reiterating what’s been said in recent weeks, the trade portion of the site says Americans are facing a “devastated manufacturing base” since the people have been forced to accept trade deals that are in the interests of Washington elite rather than workers.

“With a lifetime of negotiating experience, the president understands how critical it is to put American workers and businesses first when it comes to trade,” the White House website said.

The president still has plans to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), though no details were given on when he would begin that process. He is also still committed to renegotiating NAFTA.

“If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the president will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA,” according to the site.

The post says the president will opt out of having members of the “Washington establishment” negotiate trade deals, instead ensuring that trade policies are “implemented by and for the people.”

So far, the president has nominated Robert Lighthizer for the U.S. Trade Representative post. Lighthizer is a partner at trade law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and formerly served as deputy trade representative during the Ronald Reagan administration. A U.S. government official said he expects Lighthizer will be in place before the end of February.