TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Katherine Tai (戴琪) was confirmed as the U.S. trade representative on Wednesday (March 17), making her first the first Taiwanese-American, Asian-American, and woman of color to hold the post.
The Senate unanimously confirmed Tai as the top American trade negotiator in a vote of 98 to 0, with the two senators who were absent, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) also supporting her selection. During the proceedings, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remarked that Tai is "the daughter of proud immigrants from Taiwan."
He noted that she had served with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative under former President Obama and described her as "one of our country's most seasoned experts in international trade." During her tenure at the office, she rose to the post of chief counsel for China Trade Enforcement from 2011 to 2014.
From 2014 to 2017, she acted as trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee. In 2017, she was named chief trade counsel for that committee and played a significant role in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, pushing Trump officials for stronger labor provisions.
Now that Tai has been confirmed, she has a whole host of issues to contend with, ranging from the European Union's aircraft subsidies and taxes on digital services to pushing China to conform to World Trade Agreement rules and honor the "phase one" trade deal with the U.S. Schumer predicted that she will "play a crucial role in enforcing existing trade deals."
During testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 24, Tai said her parents were born in China, grew up in Taiwan, and then immigrated to the U.S. She credited "immigration reforms set in motion by President Kennedy" as having opened a path for them to go to the U.S. as graduate students and that they had "made the most of their American opportunity."
She said that she was proud to live in a country where a daughter of immigrants could within one generation become a leader representing U.S. interests around the world. She said that as trade representative, her first priority will be to help the U.S. emerge from the pandemic and economic crisis.
She then spoke of the "challenges posed by China" and stressed the need to have a "strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable for its promises, " asserting that China is a rival, trade partner, and an "outsized player" whose cooperation will be needed to deal with various international issues. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum, and play chess at the same time," she said.