USTR Nominee Testifies Before Senate Finance Committee

Katherine Tai, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, testified at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee last week. Politico says she addressed concerns that the Biden Administration “will stand still” on trade policy.

Senators in both parties pushed Tai on the administration’s pledge that it wouldn’t negotiate new trade deals until it gets the domestic economic stimulus package it wants from Congress. The committee’s Ranking Member Mike Crapo of Idaho told Tai, “You must make the president understand that trade is a domestic priority.” The USTR nominee says she’ll stay busy on trade policy but didn’t stake out concrete positions on the major questions facing the agency.

A potential trade deal with the United Kingdom is one of those questions, as a deal must get signed by July 1 to qualify for fast-track treatment under the trade promotion authority. To meet that deadline, the USTR would need to formally notify Congress by April 1 of its intent to sign a pact. “If I’m confirmed, I’ll need to review the progress and conversations so far during the talks with the U.K.,” she said to the committee members. Tai was also noncommittal about restarting negotiations on a new trade deal in the Asia-Pacific after former President Trump pulled the country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.