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USTR Nominee Presses ‘Plan for Holding China Accountable’

United States Trade Representative (USTR) designate Katherine Tai, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, outlined her vision for leading the agency in pursuit of trade policies that will benefit all Americans, help jumpstart the economy and tackle global trade issues.

Tai, who has received endorsements from importers and the domestic apparel and textile industry, also detailed her commitment to re-engaging international institutions to address common threats such as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our first priority will be to help American communities emerge from the pandemic and economic crisis,” Tai said. “USTR has an important role to play in that effort. Working with Congress, the entire Biden-Harris administration, and other countries and trusted partners, USTR will help to build out strong supply chains that will get our economy back on track.”

“In the longer term, we must pursue trade policies that advance the interests of all Americans, policies that recognize that people are workers and wage earners, not just consumers; policies that promote broad, equitable growth here at home, policies that support American innovation and enhance our competitive edge,” she said.

Tai stressed that’s why she will make it a priority to implement and enforce the renewed terms of U.S. trade relationships with Canada and Mexico.

“The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a uniquely bipartisan accomplishment that…represents an important step in reforming our approach to trade,” Tai said. “We must all continue to prioritize its implementation and success. We must continue to pursue trade policies that are ambitious in achieving robust, bipartisan support.”

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She also reiterated President Biden’s pledge to rebuild international alliances and partnerships and re-engage with international institutions. Tai said this extends to “addressing the challenges posed by China.”

“I previously served as America’s chief enforcer against China’s unfair trade practices,” Tai said. “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. I know the opportunities and limitations in our existing toolbox. And I know how important it is to build what the President has termed ‘a united front of U.S. allies.’”

“China is simultaneously a rival, a trade partner and an outsized player whose cooperation we’ll also need to address certain global challenges,” she told the committee. “We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time. That means here at home, we must prioritize resilience and make the investments in our people and our infrastructure to harness our potential, boost our competitiveness and build a more inclusive prosperity. We must also impart the values and rules that guide global commerce and we must enforce those terms vigorously.”

Tai added that having served nearly seven years in the House of Representatives, “I know that U.S. trade policy is most successful when it is conducted through a healthy partnership between the administration and the Congress.”

Tai is expected to garner bipartisan support and be confirmed to serve as USTR.