White House Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer withdrew a proposal to restore trade privileges to Ukraine in August, after he was told that President Donald Trump would likely oppose the idea, The Washington Post cited unnamed sources as saying.
One source claimed that Lighthizer’s proposal was “pulled back shortly before it was going to POTUS’ desk” because “[then-National Security Adviser John] Bolton intervened with Lighthizer to block it”.
Bolton allegedly informed Lighthizer that Trump would most likely oppose any action that benefited Ukraine's newly elected government headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Another source asserted that the delay was due to the “country review process,” while one more official claimed that Trump wanted “the total elimination” of the global trade programme involving Ukraine.
The programme, which is known as the “generalized system of preferences” (GSP), allows 120 countries to ship about 1.5 percent of total US imports without paying tariffs.
“The August exchange between Bolton and Lighthizer over the trade matter represents the first indication that the administration’s suspension of assistance to Ukraine extended beyond the congressionally authorized military aid and security assistance to other government programs,” The Washington Post noted.
The newspaper added that it remains unclear if Trump ordered Bolton to interfere over Ukraine’s trade privileges or whether he was even aware of the discussion between Bolton and Lighthizer.
Bolton’s resignation in September was followed by Lighthizer submitting a second round of paperwork to restore some of Ukraine's trade privileges; he withdrew them again on 17 October.
The Trump administration, in turn, now reportedly plans to restore some trade privileges to Ukraine after CBS News reported that Trump admitted to withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine.
Democrats’ Impeachment Probe Against Trump
A group of House Democrats initiated impeachment proceedings in late September based on a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump had abused his powers in a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July.
Democrats claim that POTUS threatened to withhold US’ military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Zelensky into investigating corruption allegations against former US Vice President and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Trump rejects the accusations as a “hoax” and a “coup”, accusing the Democrats of waging a political campaign against him.