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2024 Charles Neuhauser Memorial Lecture featuring Ambassador Robert Lighthizer — China and the Trade Trap

February 5 @ 4:30 pm 6:00 pm

Speaker: Amb. Robert Lighthizer, 18th United States Trade Representative (2017-2021)

The American government and public increasingly doubt the benefits of our economic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Since 2018, the United States has raised tariffs on Chinese imports, imposed restrictions on the export of high-tech American goods to Chinese firms, and limited Chinese investment in the American market. Join us for a discussion with former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a key architect of many of these changes, as we examine the merits of these policies and explore the future direction of U.S. economic relations with China.

The Annual Charles Neuhauser Memorial Lecture is designed to present the perspectives of scholars whose work about China link the academic world and government service.

About the Speaker:
Robert E. Lighthizer served as the 18th United States Trade Representative from 2017 to 2021.  

An experienced trade negotiator and litigator, Ambassador Lighthizer spearheaded several historic trade agreements as USTR, ushering in a new era of fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade for U.S. workers, producers, and businesses.  Significant among these accomplishments, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)  rebalanced and modernized trade in North America, expanded U.S. market access, protects our workers and the environment, and incentivize manufacturing in the United States.  

He also negotiated important trade agreements with South Korea and Japan greatly expanding U.S. trade opportunities in those countries and established a groundbreaking paradigm for digital trade. 

After confronting China on its abusive trade practices, Ambassador Lighthizer negotiated  the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, a fully-enforceable agreement that addresses China’s discriminatory treatment of U.S. companies, intellectual property theft, and currency manipulation , while maintaining tariffs on key Chinese products and increasing China’s purchases of U.S. goods and services.  

He also brought attention to systemic issues and outdated, ineffective rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO), placing unprecedented pressure on the WTO’’s Appellate Body and working with our trade partners on wider reforms.

At the time he was chosen by President Trump to serve as USTR, Ambassador Lighthizer had been a partner at Skadden,Arps for over 30 years. Before that, Ambassador Lighthizer served as Deputy USTR for President Ronald Reagan and negotiated over two dozen bilateral international agreements, including agreements on steel, automobiles, and agricultural products.  As Deputy USTR, he served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Prior to becoming Deputy USTR, Ambassador Lighthizer was Chief of Staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance under Chairman Bob Dole.  In this position, he was a key player in enacting the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 – the most significant tax reform in decades – and other elements of the Reagan economic program.

Ambassador Lighthizer earned a Bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University and his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center. He is a native of Ashtabula, Ohio. He writes and speaks often on issues of international economics, trade, China and U.S. politics.

Ambassador Lighthizer recently published a book on trade policy, its importance for America and what was accomplished in the Trump administration entitled No Trade Is Free: Changing Course, Taking On China and Helping America’s Workers


February 5
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium (S010)

1730 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States

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