President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate Katherine Tai to be the top U.S. trade envoy, according to press reports this week.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Tai, a trade lawyer fluent in Mandarin Chinese who is currently chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, would assume a critical, cabinet-level position tasked with enforcing the nation’s import rules and brokering trade negotiations with China, and other countries.
The selection of Tai, who has previously worked at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as an associate general counsel and as chief counsel for China trade enforcement for the World Trade Organization, reiterates Biden’s “strong signals that he intends to be tough on China,” said Jeff Navin, a former official in the Obama administration.
“[Tai] knows China, and she knows enforcement, and that’s going to be helpful in making sure that American manufacturers and their workers are protected. She will not be afraid of any fight on dumping, and she will know how to use every tool in the USTR toolbox to push the Biden trade agenda,” said Navin.
In her current role on the Hill, Tai helped direct the negotiations with the Trump administration on vital changes to the labour provisions of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that replaced NAFTA, something that garnered praise from both progressives and moderates within the Democratic Party.
The Biden transition team heralded Tai’s experience in a press release on Thursday as key to important insights while the incoming administration reviews the “phase one” trade deal outgoing USTR Robert Lighthier brokered with Beijing for the Trump administration.
“Her deep experience will allow the Biden-Harris administration to hit the ground running on trade, and harness the power of our trading relationships to help the U.S. dig out of the COVID-induced economic crisis and pursue the President-elect’s vision of a pro-American worker trade strategy,” the transition team wrote.