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President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listen as Katherine Tai speaks in Delaware President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listen as Katherine Tai, the Biden administration's nominee for U.S. trade representative, speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Can Katherine Tai Deliver on Biden’s ‘Middle-Class’ Trade Agenda?

Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020

“Trade is like any other tool in our domestic or foreign policy,” Katherine Tai, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be the next U.S. trade representative, said last Friday when her nomination was announced. “It is not an end in itself. It is a means to create more hope and opportunity for people.”

Those remarks from the 46-year-old career trade official may seem self-evident. But they hint at what could become a significant change in the direction of trade policy under the new president. Since the era of bilateral and regional trade negotiations began in the mid-1980s, the mission of the Office of the United States Trade Representative has been to enter into ever more trade agreements, confident that the benefits of lower tariffs, clearer rules and expanded trade would trickle down to the American people. That mission was shared by trade representatives under Republican presidents, such as Carla Hills and Robert Zoellick, and Democratic ones, such as Charlene Barshefsky and Michael Froman. Whether such trickling down actually created new jobs and new opportunities for Americans was largely someone else’s problem. ...

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