Biden to pick Capitol Hill staffer as US trade representative

Presidential Transition

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, to announce his health care team. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate Katherine Tai, the House Ways and Means Committee’s chief trade lawyer, to serve as U.S. trade representative, a person familiar with the decision tells Reuters.

The role is a Cabinet position, and the Senate will vote on whether to confirm Tai for the position.

Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Tai earlier oversaw China trade enforcement for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, setting U.S. strategy in trade disputes with China. Biden’s trade representative will inherit a trade war with China, put on pause by an interim trade pact in January that left many of the hardest issues unresolved and U.S. taxes remaining on $360 billion in Chinese imports.

As the top trade staffer at Ways and Means, Tai handled negotiations last year with the Trump administration over a revamped North American trade deal. Trump’s trade team agreed to strengthen the pact to make it easier for Mexican workers to form independent unions and demand better pay and benefits — decreasing the incentives for U.S. firms to move south of the border to take advantage of cheap and compliant labor.

The administration also dropped from the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement what Democrats considered a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies that could have kept drug prices high.

Tai is considered a problem-solving pragmatist on trade policy, which often breaks down into an ideological divide between free traders and protectionists. In a letter to Biden on Nov. 24, California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and nine other female House members praised Tai’s “experience and diplomatic abilities’’ and said she is “uniquely qualified’’ to deal with Canada and Mexico on the USMCA and with U.S.-China trade tensions.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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