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As the Trump administration tees up a slew of highly aggressive new trade policies that could upend economic relations on several continents, experts outside the government and on the Hill are concerned over the team leading the charge.

More than a year into this presidency, the office at the USTR remains severely understaffed. The agency, technically a division of the White House, remains without a permanent deputy trade representative in key regions such as China and the Western Hemisphere. The Senate has yet to confirm ambassador to the World Trade Organization.

But beyond who is not there, it’s who is that has raised alarm.

Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, is relying on a small group of relatively unseasoned officials to advance a complex agenda, including renegotiating landmark free trade deals and cracking down on allegedly unfair practices by China, Mexico, and other major global economic partners. None have drawn more scrutiny and attention within the trade policy community than G. Payne Griffin, Lighthizer’s deputy chief of staff.

How a Twentysomething Eagle Scout Became One of Donald Trump’s Top Trade Hands

As the Trump administration goes about revamping trade policy, a leading staffer comes under fire for his thin qualifications.


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