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China critic Katherine Tai is set to be confirmed as Biden’s U.S. Trade Representative

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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, is set to be confirmed Wednesday as the Biden administration’s top trade official.

Tai would become the first Asian American woman and the first woman of color to be the U.S Trade Representative in the position’s nearly 60-year history. She received unanimous support from an evenly split Senate in a procedural vote clearing her way for confirmation.

Tai’s expected confirmation comes as the Biden administration 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, and, in several instances from 2007 to 2014, argued successfully on behalf of the U.S. 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 has said. She also believes the United States should work with other countries to counter China.

Tai will succeed Robert Lighthizer as trade czar. He was Trump’s top trade negotiator and imposed several on goods imported from China, while also negotiating the Phase One trade deal the two nations struck before the coronavirus outbreak gripped the globe.

When she testified before the the Senate Finance Committee, Tai said she wanted to hold China to its Phase One commitments. She didn’t state 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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