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China critic Katherine Tai confirmed by Senate as Biden’s U.S. Trade Representative


Katherine C. Tai addresses the Senate Finance committee hearings to examine her nomination to be United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador, in Washington, DC February 25, 2021.

Bill O’Leary | Pool | Reuters

Katherine Tai, a critic of China’s trade practices, was confirmed Wednesday as the Biden administration’s top trade official. The Senate vote was 98-0.

If confirmed, Tai would become the first Asian American woman and the first woman of color to be the U.S. Trade Representative since the position was created nearly 60 years ago. She received unanimous support on Tuesday from an evenly split Senate in a procedural vote clearing her way for confirmation.

Tai’s expected confirmation comes as the Biden White House attempts to move away from the Trump administration’s more belligerent tone in dealing with China, while maintaining a tough U.S. stance against its rival economic superpower.

Tai has been critical of certain Chinese policies. In several instances between 2007 and 2014, she successfully argued the U.S. case against China’s trade practices before the World Trade Organization.

“There are also a lot of areas that are gray areas, where the rules are not clear, or where we don’t have rules yet,” Tai said last month. She also believes the U.S. should work with other countries to counter China.

Tai will succeed Robert Lighthizer, who as Trump’s top trade negotiator imposed several tariffs on Chinese imports while negotiating the phase one trade deal the two nations struck in January 2020.

When she testified before the the Senate Finance Committee in February, Tai said she wanted to hold China to its phase one commitments. She didn’t say whether she would use additional tariffs against China, but noted there were “legitimate tools in the trade toolbox.”

–CNBC’s Thomas Franck contributed to this report.

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