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Trump trade war chief, USTR, China hawk Robert Lighthizer cigar story

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robert lighthizer
US
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is leading President
Donald Trump’s trade fight against China.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images

  • 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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