President-elect Joe Biden has named an “agency review team” to assess the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s operations ahead of the inauguration to help ensure a “smooth transfer of power” and prepare the incoming administration to “hit the ground running on Day One,” according to the recently created Biden-Harris transition website.
Additionally, the same review team will also assess related operations of the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
“These teams are composed of highly experienced and talented professionals with deep backgrounds in crucial policy areas across the federal government,” the transition website states. “The teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, but reflect the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges.”
Such transition teams can often signal future policy direction of the new administration and even specific personnel at the departments, agencies, and commissions under review.
Brookings Institute Senior Fellow Jason Miller, former deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the National Economic Council during the Obama administration, has been named “team lead” while the other 14 members include organized labour advocates, academics, and former USTR staffers, in addition to lobbyists and trade policy experts drawn from various business enterprises.
Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute has, for what it’s worth, classified the “interesting mix” as being either “progressive/critic” or “moderate/establishment.”
As for who might become the next USTR in a Biden administration, speculation has been running high for months (here, here, and here, for example) with many different names being floated in Washington including Congressman Jimmy Gomez, a California progressive who helped negotiate stronger labour provisions in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement; Fred Hochberg, the former U.S. Export-Import Bank chairman who recently wrote the book “Trade is Not a Four-Letter Word”; Rhonda Schmidtlein, a member of the USITC; and Robert Holleyman, a former deputy USTR in the Obama administration.
Some have even suggested there is “a small but non-trivial chance” Biden might want to keep current USTR Robert Lighthizer on board, given his generally good relations with Democratic lawmakers.