Biden’s Trade Pick Says Chinese Regime Is Both Rival and Partner

February 25, 2021 Updated: March 2, 2021

President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, on Feb. 25 pledged to work with allies to hold the Chinese regime accountable for its unfair trade practices.

In remarks at her confirmation hearing conducted by the Senate Finance Committee, Tai described the Chinese regime as “simultaneously a rival, a trade partner, and an outsized player whose cooperation we’ll also need to address certain global challenges.”

“We must remember how to walk, chew gum, and play chess at the same time,” she added.

Tai, who grew up in Taiwan and is a fluent Mandarin speaker, is the top trade lawyer for the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. She also previously served for several years as head of China enforcement at the trade representative’s office.

“I know firsthand how critically important it is that we have a strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its model of state-directed economics,” she said.

The Trump administration placed tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods in response to the regime’s expansive state-sanctioned campaign to steal U.S. intellectual property (IP). It also entered into trade negotiations with the regime in an attempt to force Beijing to overhaul a range of unfair economic practices, such as heavy subsidies for domestic industries, forcing U.S. companies to transfer IP as a condition to enter the Chinese market, and currency manipulation.

While the two sides entered into a phase one trade deal in January 2020, in which the Chinese regime promised to buy an additional $200 billion over the next two years, Beijing has so far fallen short of these purchase commitments. It also pledged to carry out structural changes, including protecting intellectual property, stopping forced technology transfers, and providing transparency on foreign exchange practices.

The Biden administration is currently reviewing Trump-era trade policies, and has yet to say whether it will keep the tariffs or the phase one trade deal.

Asked whether she would push the Chinese regime to implement structural changes it promised in the phase one deal, Tai replied that Beijing needs to deliver on those pledges.

She said that discussions with the regime in Beijing to get it to make good on structural reforms is “absolutely worth exploring with China,” but noted that “those are roads that have been well worn by U.S. trade representatives before me.

“We need to be exploring all of our options,” Tai added.

Tai also emphasized building “a united front of U.S. allies” to combat Beijing’s predatory practices, while acknowledging that working with others was “hard work.”

“We must also impart the values and rules that guide global commerce—and we must enforce those terms vigorously,” she said.

Tai is respected by members of both sides of the aisle, who have praised her ability to build consensus across ideological divides.

Clete Willems, former deputy director of the National Economic Council during the Trump administration, told The Epoch Times earlier this month that Tai is highly qualified for the job.

“She really understands China, and she spent a career trying to get the U.S. and other allies to work together to push back against China’s unfair trade practices,” Willems said.

Emel Akan and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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