The Trump administration also intends to pursue “formal challenges” this year to unfair trade practices by other countries, potentially including a number of countries that are adopting new taxes on digital commerce, and look for other ways to strengthen American trade policies to protect producers and consumers, according to the testimony.
One option the administration is considering, Mr. Lighthizer will say, is lowering the “de minimis threshold,” the dollar value up to which products can be shipped into the United States duty-free and with minimal screening.
The threshold, now $800, is significantly higher than it is for many U.S. trading partners, a system that benefits large importers like eBay and Amazon but exposes American manufacturers to more competition from abroad. Trump administration officials have argued that this system fails to protect American companies against competition from Chinese companies, which can ship many products into the United States duty-free.
But the testimony suggests that Mr. Lighthizer’s most critical remarks will be reserved for the World Trade Organization, which has been increasingly sidelined as the Trump administration pursues negotiations with other countries one on one.
The organization has treated the United States “as the world’s greatest trade abuser” and “created new obligations out of thin air, preventing the United States from taking action to address unfair trade practices that hurt U.S. workers, and usurping the U.S. government’s accountability to the American people,” Mr. Lighthizer’s testimony reads.
Unlike other officials in the Trump administration, including, at times, Mr. Trump, Mr. Lighthizer does not advocate withdrawing from the group entirely. But under his direction, the United States has crippled the arm of the organization charged with settling trade disputes by blocking appointments to fill its seats. Mr. Lighthizer frequently sparred with that part of the organization earlier in his career as a lawyer defending the American steel industry.
Mr. Lighthizer’s prepared remarks suggest that the United States is likely to put more pressure on the trade organization this year to adjust the tariffs it allows countries to charge one another on a variety of products, potentially bringing the United States into conflict with governments that support the organization, including the European Union.