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Biden Expected To Tap Katherine Tai As U.S. Trade Representative

Then-Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue at the State Department in June 2015.
Chris Kleponis
AFP via Getty Images
Then-Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue at the State Department in June 2015.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Katherine Tai as U.S. Trade Representative, a source familiar with transition discussions confirms to NPR. The source spoke on condition of anonymity about private conversations.

Biden and his administration prepare to face a drastically different trade landscape than the one Biden last saw as vice president.

Tai's selection was first reported by Politico.

Tai, who currently works as chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee, has already received praise from Democrats for her skills and experience.

"Katherine Tai is the most qualified candidate for USTR, and her nomination would reflect President-elect Biden's commitment to the Dignity of Work," Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a progressive who is a key voice in the Senate on trade, tweeted.

"Ms. Tai played a critical role in securing real improvements for workers in the [United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement] last year," he said.

Rep. Judy Chu also praised Tai's qualifications and said she is "thrilled" to have an Asian American woman at the cabinet level.

If confirmed, Tai, who is Asian-American, would be the first woman of color to serve in the post.

Biden said in an interview with the New York Times last week that he would not rush to remove U.S. tariffs on imports of Chinese goods, one of Trump's signature policies, saying he wanted to review Trump's trade deal with China and consult with allies first.

"The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our — or at least what used to be our — allies on the same page. It's going to be a major priority for me in the opening weeks of my presidency to try to get us back on the same page with our allies," Biden said in the interview.

Matthew Goodman, who served in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, including on the National Security Council, called Tai a "real pro, experienced in both the executive and legislative branches ... She's understated but tough."

Goodman says Biden's choice of Tai over a more political figure could signal a more active trade policy from his administration than trade watchers had thought.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.
Alana Wise joined WAMU in September 2018 as the 2018-2020 Audion Reporting Fellow for Guns & America. Selected as one of 10 recipients nationwide of the Audion Reporting Fellowship, Alana works in the WAMU newsroom as part of a national reporting project and is spending two years focusing on the impact of guns in the Washington region.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.