Cantwell Questions U.S. Trade Rep Nominee on Key Washington State Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) questioned U.S. Trade Representative Nominee Robert Lighthizer on key economic priorities for Washington state: the Airbus-Boeing World Trade Organization (WTO) case, the Export-Import Bank and increasing trade enforcement. Through her questioning, Cantwell received commitments that could bolster Washington state exports, jobs and economic growth.

Trade Enforcement

Cantwell pressed Lighthizer on his commitment to trade enforcement, citing the new Trade Enforcement Trust Fund and its mission to “make sure that we had ample support within USTR to actually fight for trade enforcement.”

In 2015, Congress passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which included a provision offered by Senator Cantwell authorizing a $15 million Trade Enforcement Trust Fund, to be used exclusively for the enforcement of our existing and pending Free Trade Agreements. Congress has not yet appropriated any resources for the new Trust Fund.

 “Do you support the trade enforcement trust fund and what should its annual appropriations be so that we are adequately staffed,” Cantwell asked Lighthizer.

Lighthizer stated that more resources were needed to ensure adequate trade enforcement. “I hope the $15 million is appropriated – and in terms of resources,” said Lighthizer in response to Cantwell’s question.


European Union subsidies to Airbus continue to destroy American jobs and negatively affect manufacturers such as Boeing.

“Will you be aggressive in getting Europeans to stop massively subsidizing Airbus?” Cantwell asked Lighthizer. “You know that the WTO has found that the aerospace sector had $17 billion dollars of illegal subsidies. That brings the total of illegal subsidies to Airbus to about $22 billion. So I want to know if you’re going to be aggressive on that.”

Lighthizer affirmed he would take an aggressive position in taking on Airbus at the WTO, noting that the Airbus subsidies have “a real impact on American manufacturing.”

According to the Commerce Department, the U.S. aerospace industry contributed $144.1 billion in export sales to the U.S. economy in 2015. The industry’s positive trade balance of $82.5 billion that year was the largest trade surplus of any manufacturing industry, supporting high-wage jobs for hundreds of thousands of American workers.

Export-Import Bank

Ex-Im Bank plays a critical role in helping companies of all sizes export to markets around the world where it would otherwise be difficult to obtain financing.

“I want to know whether you support the Export-Import Bank and the concept of a credit agency for the United States and whether the President should immediately appoint people to get it functioning at the level it should,” Cantwell asked.

Lighthizer noted that the U.S. “need[s] to do everything we can to encourage exports.” He also recognized the importance of the Ex-Im Bank to Boeing, manufactures and to US exports overall.

However, Lighthizer stopped short of fully endorsing the bank. "I expect to do what the president instructs me to do when he instructs me to do it,” Lightizer said.

Cantwell noted that majorities in both the House and Senate have supported the Ex-Im bank, including majorities of Republicans.

Cantwell will also be submitting additional written questions for Lightizer, focusing on digital trade, bilateral trade agreements, and agricultural trade. 

A full transcript is available HERE.