Biden’s Pick To Run Trade Policy, Katherine Tai, Promises More Efficient Protectionism
Near the very end of Thursday’s confirmation hearing for Katherine Tai, President Joe Biden’s pick to be the U.S. Trade Representative, there was a telling exchange between Tai and Sen. Pat Toomey (R–Penn.).
Toomey, an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump’s haphazard tariff policies, bluntly asked Tai what the goal of a trade deal ought to be. When the U.S. pursues trade agreements with other modern, developed nations, Toomey asked, “in your ideal world, would the goal of that trade agreement be to end up with a mutual and reciprocal zero-tariff, zero-quota, zero-obstacle-to-trade arrangement?”
“Maybe if you’d asked me that question five or 10 years ago,” Tai replied, “I’d have been inclined to say ‘yes.'”
Now, however, the best Tai could muster was to say “I’m not sure,” adding that it would “depend on the specific facts.” Like much of what she told senators during Thursday’s hearing, it was a diplomatic and noncommittal response—but also, as Toomey described it, a “disappointing” one.
Tai spent most of the hearing steering away from making specific commitments, but the overall picture that emerged is one where Biden aims to cement some of Trump’s protectionist impulses while turning away from the previous president’s go-it-alone approach. Tai stressed the importance of working with countries that share America’s economic and politi
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