Late last week the Senate voted to confirm Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the nation’s top trade enforcer. A host of challenges await Ambassador Lighthizer, a veteran of USTR under Reagan, as he takes the post. The agency’s annual survey of barriers to U.S. exports released in April, the National Trade Estimate, spanned nearly 500 pages, flagging obstacles to market access in scores of countries around the world.
In recent years, U.S. trade officials have scrambled to respond to new market access crises in critical overseas markets. One of the fastest growing hotspots in international trade has been digital trade, which received special attention from USTR in a March fact sheet. Officials have been acutely aware of these threats due to the amount of economic activity at stake. Between 2007 and 2014, U.S. digital services exports grew from $282 billion to nearly $400 billion. With millions of jobs and the fastest growing sector of U.S. employment riding on these exports, a lot is at stake.