Story at a glance

  • The U.S. Senate unanimously appointed Katherine Tai as the next USTR, the only Biden nominee to receive objective bipartisan support.
  • Her confirmation comes as Asian Americans are experiencing high levels of racially motivated attacks in the U.S.

Following the historic confirmation of Congresswoman Deb Haaland as the U.S.’s first Native American presidential cabinet secretary, the Senate made another historic confirmation as they solidified Katherine Tai as the first Asian American woman to be appointed as the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

 

 

Tai’s nomination was confirmed unanimously in a 98-0 vote.

The USTR supervises more than 200 staffers that aid in negotiations with foreign countries to develop trade agreements and resolve outstanding issues. The agency was created in 1962.

Prior to her confirmation, Tai worked as an attorney, working both in the private sector and within the Office of the USTR. As her hearing approached, multiple senators praised Tai’s long work history and experience in trade negotiations. 

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) noted that she had “extensive trade policy experience, including experience litigating major trade disputes against China,” and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) tweeted her support in February, noting that Tai’s experience will help advance U.S. farmers and businesses. 

“She’ll also level the playing field & hold countries accountable that violate our trade laws,” Stabenow wrote

The broad bipartisan support Tai enjoyed is a standout among President Biden’s cabinet nominees, with her confirmation being the only hearing that received a unanimous vote. 

In early March, the Office of the USTR delivered Biden’s trade policy agenda to Congress, an annual report that outlines the president’s comprehensive goals and policies regarding U.S. trade. 

Some of the pillars of Biden’s trade agenda include guiding the U.S. economy out of the COVID-19-induced recession through ensuring sustained personal protective equipment and medical supplies available to front line workers, increasing transparency surrounding workers’ rights in the global supply chain and implementing a climate-friendly supply chain system.

Notably, Biden’s plan, which Tai will be tasked with executing, also includes confronting China on its trade practices, namely currency manipulation, domestic subsidies and intellectual property concerns.

Outside of public policy, Tai’s confirmation comes as anti-Asian hate crimes have surged in the U.S. since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Published on Mar 18, 2021