President Joe Biden’s Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Thursday vowed to work with her U.S. allies to tackle what Washington views as China’s unfair economic practices, but was cautious about a quick return to a broad Pacific trade deal that the United States left four years ago.
Referring to her past career as a chief executor against China’s Unfair Trade Practices at the U.S. Trade Representative Office, Tai told a Senate confirmation hearing that she was aware of the of critical importance to having a “strategic and coherent plan to hold China accountable on its promises and effectively compete with its model of a state-run economy.”
Katherine Tai speaks during Senate Finance Committee hearings to consider her appointment as U.S. Trade Representative in Washington on February 25, 2021 (Pool / Getty / Kyodo)
“And I know how important it is to build what the president has called ‘a united front of American allies’,” she said.
His remarks signal a desire to move away from the previous administration’s “go-it-alone” approach under Donald Trump, which critics say alienated allies and undermined an effective global response to China.
Tai also said she would work to enforce the so-called phase one trade agreement between the United States and China, under which Beijing has agreed to step up purchases of American products, strengthen property protection. intellectual property rights and respond to allegations of forced technology transfer.
“There are promises that China has made that China must keep,” the trade expert told the Senate Finance Committee, referring to the agreement signed in January last year as a result of ‘a tit-for-tat tariff war between the world’s two largest economies. .
Tai, meanwhile, expressed caution over whether the United States should work towards an early return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, from which Trump withdrew the country shortly. after taking office in 2017 due to fears of potential job losses in the United States.
“Even today in 2021, the basic formula of the TPP, which was to work with our partners with whom we have very important common interests economically and strategically, and with the challenge of China in mind, is still a solid formula, ”she said. but added that “a lot has changed in the world in the past five or six years” since it was negotiated.
The TPP, initially signed by 12 Asia-Pacific countries in 2016, has been widely seen as a counterweight to China’s growing economic influence in the region. Following the US withdrawal, Japan and the other 10 remaining members, including Australia, decided to salvage most of the deal, now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Biden, Barack Obama’s former vice president who championed the TPP, suggested before his election as president that joining the CPTPP would require renegotiation in some areas.
The Biden administration also said its initial goal would be to invest in U.S. competitiveness at home rather than negotiating new trade deals.
Tai, born to Chinese parents who grew up in Taiwan, was chosen by Biden to become the first Asian American and the first woman of color to lead the USTR office. The position requires confirmation from the Senate.