- Robert Lighthizer is the US Trade Representative spearheading President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
- According to a new Bloomberg profile, Lighthizer has been a hard-charging trade negotiator since the 1980s.
- In one instance, Lighthizer smoked an entire box of Cuban cigars in a windowless room to throw off Soviet negotiators during a tense round of talks.
The point man for President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is no stranger to tense negotiations – or a high-end cigar.
A new profile from Bloomberg’s Shawn Donnan paints a striking picture of the long-time negotiator and current US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. His office is overseeing the ballooning tariffs on Chinese goods.
Lighthizer’s long history as a trade warrior started under Sen. Bob Dole in 1978 and continued when he was appointed Deputy US Trade Representative under President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
During the Reagan years, Lighthizer helped to negotiate a slew of trade deals before joining a private law firm to practice international trade law.
One of the most striking examples of Lighthizer’s tough tactics is from a rare media appearance back in January. After a round of NAFTA negations in Montreal, Lighthizer told reporters about a particularly notable encounter with the Soviets back in the 1980s.
During talks between the US and the Soviets regarding an end to America’s embargo on grain exports to the USSR, Lighthizer was given a tin of Cuban cigars by his Soviet counterparts.
To catch the Soviets trade negotiators off guard, Lighthizer smoked the entire tin of cigars in the windowless room where the talks were being held.
At a critical point in the negotiations, Donnan wrote, Lighthizer opened the empty cigar box and cracked a joke that the Cubans appeared to be screwing over the Soviets, revealing the startling feat of tobacco consumption.
While Lighthizer keeps a lower public profile than fellow Trump administration members like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, the Bloomberg report details a few other personal flourishes.
In addition to the cigar habit (which, according to a 1987 Washington Post profile turned into a snuff and chewing tobacco habit before he quit tobacco entirely), Lighthizer keeps a life-size portrait of himself in his Washington, DC, home and is known for driving a Porsche.
Outside of the personal trappings, the US Trade Representative is staunchly anti-China and believes much of the US free trade policy of the last 30 years was a mistake.
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