Biden’s USTR decide Katherine Tai shall be robust on China: Ex-Trump official

Katherine Tai delivers remarks after being launched as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be the subsequent U.S. Commerce Consultant on the Queen Theater on Dec.11, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Pictures

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s decide for his incoming administration’s high commerce official will probably stick with it a troublesome line in opposition to China, in line with former Trump commerce negotiator Clete Willems.

Biden final week named Katherine Tai, a commerce lawyer, as his alternative for the U.S. commerce consultant — a essential Cupboard-level place tasked with imposing U.S. import guidelines in addition to negotiate buying and selling phrases with China and different nations.

“Katherine Tai is a superb alternative for USTR and the suitable particular person for the second,” Willems, who’s now companion at legislation agency Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, informed CNBC in an e mail.   

Of us like me who labored within the Trump Administration have a ton of respect for her and assume she is going to assist stick with it a troublesome line on China.

Clete Willems

companion, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Tai, a Mandarin speaker and knowledgeable on China, performed a key position as chief commerce counsel on the Home Methods and Means Committee in pushing for stronger labor and environmental provisions within the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Settlement (USMCA).

Regardless of her affiliation with the Democrats, Tai is receiving “sturdy bipartisan help,” stated Willems. He identified that Republican Sen. Rob Portman had endorsed Tai’s nomination.

“Of us like me who labored within the Trump Administration have a ton of respect for her and assume she is going to assist stick with it a troublesome line on China,” he added.

Willems had served underneath President Donald Trump as deputy assistant to the president for worldwide economics and deputy director of the Nationwide Financial Council till April final 12 months. Earlier than becoming a member of the White Home in 2017, Willems labored on the workplace of USTR the place he and Tai dealt with among the disputes with China and negotiations with Europe.

“She just isn’t a pushover and goes to have the power to face up for U.S. pursuits in opposition to nations like China (in addition to others just like the EU) and her substantive experience will permit her to ensure USTR holds its personal within the interagency debate on commerce points, which will be fairly vigorous,” he stated.

Similarities and variations with Lighthizer

In distinction, Trump denounced the WTO and most well-liked to confront China unilaterally — slapping punitive measures, equivalent to elevated tariffs on Chinese language items, typically on the grounds of nationwide safety.

Defending Trump’s actions on the Milken Institute Asia Summit final week, Lighthizer stated the administration did work with companions on some points — however they cannot permit allies to “veto” selections regarding U.S. nationwide safety.

Biden had stated that he is not going to instantly roll again these tariffs imposed by Trump, and needs to seek the advice of with allies to develop a “coherent technique” on China.

That is the suitable method to take, nevertheless it’s simpler stated than carried out, stated Willems. “The Biden Administration might want to get our allies to extend their ambition and willingness to take robust actions to make this profitable.”

— CNBC’s Weizhen Tan and Thomas Franck contributed to this report.

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