Among her first duties might be advising the president on what to do about current tariffs on most imported Chinese merchandise, presiding over enforcement of a new trade take care of Mexico and Canada, and looking for a negotiated finish to a long-running industrial dispute with the European Union.
Tai might be a key participant in crafting the “worker-centered” trade policy that President Biden has promised and ensuring his efforts to advertise home manufacturing adjust to U.S. trade commitments.
Tai, 46, will turn out to be a Cabinet officer after a profession of behind-the-scenes work as a authorities and company legal professional. She should discover her footing in a coverage scrum crowded with longtime Biden associates corresponding to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan, who has known as for recalibrating trade coverage to ship increased wages for employees reasonably than to open international markets for firms.
“It’s going to be reshaping trade policy initiatives to centrally prioritize making sure the policy is beneficial to U.S. workers and the U.S. economy,” mentioned Claire Reade, senior counsel at Arnold & Porter. “This is a fundamental shift.”
Tai, whose dad and mom immigrated from Taiwan, could be the one Asian American lady to be appointed to a Cabinet-level place beneath Biden. Another high decide, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal assume tank, withdrew as a nominee to steer the White House funds workplace. The Biden administration has confronted criticism from lawmakers and advocacy teams for not naming an Asian American or Pacific Islander to a significant Cabinet submit.
Tai is properly regarded by each the liberal and average wings of the Democratic Party in addition to by enterprise leaders. Along together with her Capitol Hill tenure, she boasts a number of years on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), directing the enforcement of trade offers with China.
“She has the advantage of having negotiated directly with China,” mentioned Reade, a former trade negotiator who employed Tai on the USTR. “She understands very well how the Chinese system works.”
Tai’s abilities have been on show in a 2009 grievance the United States filed with the World Trade Organization over dozens of Chinese export restrictions on uncooked supplies corresponding to bauxite, magnesium and zinc. The United States mentioned the quotas, which raised supplies’ costs for corporations outdoors China, have been prohibited beneath international trade guidelines and gave Chinese producers a aggressive benefit.
The WTO ultimately sided with the United States and ordered China to drop many of the restrictions.
Tai succeeds Robert E. Lighthizer, who was the mental muscle behind President Donald Trump’s protectionist impulses.
Her low-key demeanor will depart from Lighthizer’s typically acerbic negotiating fashion. In 2019, Tai received important reward for her position in negotiating adjustments to the draft model of a new North American trade deal, which helped fulfill Democratic trade skeptics with out alienating U.S. negotiating companions.
In marathon bargaining periods, Tai helped design a inventive method to implementing employees’ rights in Mexico, which concerned the suitable to problem the operations of particular person Mexican factories.
“Katherine understood clearly that enforcement could get Democrats on board,” mentioned Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Tai’s boss.
At the top of these talks, Neal mentioned he informed her: “You should get a Nobel Prize in economics.”
As Tai awaited affirmation, the administration took steps towards a decision of a 16-year trade dispute with the European Union over industrial plane subsidies. Earlier this month, Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to a four-month suspension of tariffs on a range of merchandise whereas they redouble efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement.
During her affirmation hearings, Tai vowed to make a settlement with the E.U. an early precedence.
In written solutions to lawmakers’ questions, Tai mentioned she would “seek to determine the impact of trade policies on workers’ wages and economic security and take that impact into account as we develop new policy.”
She additionally echoed Trump administration complaints about the WTO, saying “reforms are needed” to discourage its appellate panel from infringing on U.S. rights.
“The Appellate Body has overstepped its authority and erred in interpreting WTO agreements in a number of cases, to the detriment of the United States and other WTO members. In addition, the Appellate Body has failed to follow existing rules created to ensure that disputes are resolved in a timely manner,” Tai wrote.
Tai additionally prevented specifics on two central questions: the destiny of the prevailing tariffs on most imported Chinese items and prospects for the United States to rejoin a Pacific trade deal that Trump give up inside days of taking workplace in 2017.
“Much has changed in the world since the original [Trans-Pacific Partnership] was signed in 2016,” Tai wrote, including solely that she would seek the advice of with lawmakers on the street forward.
Born in Connecticut to Taiwanese dad and mom, Tai is also a fluent Mandarin speaker who in her spare time enjoys gardening and wrestling with jigsaw puzzles. She has levels from Harvard Law School and Yale University.