Free Trade

Biden's Pick To Run Trade Policy, Katherine Tai, Promises More Efficient Protectionism

Trump's trade policies caused "a lot of disruption and consternation," Tai said at one point during Thursday's hearing. "I want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective process."


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 political values to counter the growing influence of China, for example. During her opening remarks to the committee, Tai said it was "critically important" for the U.S. to "have a strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its model of state-directed economics." But she also emphasized Biden's goal of a so-called "worker-centric trade policy," which likely requires attaching more complicated labor requirements to future trade deals.

In many ways, the model for what a Biden/Tai trade policy might look like is already out there. Tai previously worked as the congressional Democrats' top negotiator on the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) and helped shepherd some major union priorities into the deal. The AFL-CIO, which almost never endorses trade agreements, came out for the USMCA after some last-minute changes to artificially hike wages in Mexican automating plants and more strictly enforce labor standards in Mexico.

But even as Tai indicated a willingness to embrace more stringent enforcement of labor standards in current and future trade deals, she rebuffed a request from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) that she include more oversight from labor and environmental interests in trade deals. Progressives like Warren are pushing Biden to use trade policy as leverage for a wide range of other policies—much as Trump viewed trade policy as a way to extract concessions from foreign governments.

"Tai is in an interesting position right now, trying to assuage the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic party," says Inu Manak, a research fellow who covers trade policy for the libertarian Cato Institute. "Though I would say that skepticism about liberalization is likely to continue under the Biden administration."

Tai's unwillingness to commit to rolling back Trump's tariffs is another red flag—but not really a surprising one. Trump effectively shifted U.S. trade policy to the left, so it is unsurprising that the incoming Democratic administration would not want to do much differently.

Trump's trade policies caused "a lot of disruption and consternation," Tai said at one point during Thursday's hearing. "I want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective process."

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  1. But, hey, no more mean tweets!
    Plus, higher gas prices!
    Thanks SleepyJoe!

    1. Trump recap:

      worst jobs record since the Great Depression
      worst single year and four year GDP since the Great Depression
      escalates trade wars and fails in trade deals
      fails to build wall and make Mexico pay for it as promised
      fails in pandemic response
      record deficits – up to 5x higher than his predecessor left
      attempted overthrow of election
      complete disregard for US Constitution and democracy
      failed allies and NATO
      gave Iran runway to develop nuclear weapons

      Trump = Total failure

      1. Yeah Trump’s almost as bad as Biden.


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      2. Why are you living in the past? We have real problems right now.

    2. So you admit Biden’s protectionism is bad just as Trump’s was.

    3. Gas prices are up because the lockdowns are no more. More travel means more demand for gas, which raises the price of gas.

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  2. similar goals to what was accomplished, but different. government!

  3. “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?”

    “I’m not sure,” adding that it would “depend on the specific facts.”

    The specific facts are it’s in your ideal world. You can’t even answer a simple fucking question with a simple fucking answer?

  4. Fuck Biden, the President has no authority to levy taxes.

  5. Too bad you guys only care about mean tweets.

    1. Trump voters, 2016: I don’t really care about policy, I’m only voting for Trump in order to vote against Hillary because I can’t stand her!

      Trump voters, 2020: Why don’t you care about policy? Don’t vote based on emotion!

      1. Hey remember earlier today when you made a total fucking fool of yourself complaining about people demanding investigations only to realize the article had nothing to do with that so you threw a bitchy little tantrum once you realized how moronic you were and then claimed you were just venting your spleen at other posters like a broken little bitch?

        Good times!

        1. Oh look, Tulpa is still Tulpa.

          1. Well, I do love owning you.

            1. He makes it easy.

          2. Autist spouting autist things.

      2. Did that strawman really warrant nuking from orbit?

        1. Jeff in 2016 “I criticize both sides”

          Jeff in 2020 “TRUUUUUUMPPPP!!”

    2. So you’re attacking Biden for having the same bad policy as Trump yet are defending Trump. Lol.

  6. Well then. A Biden appointee that the Trumpists can get behind.

    1. Ahahaha look how mad you are about fucking up earlier ahahahaha

      1. I guess we can stop expecting Jeff to prove he’s not a prog and actually criticize the left.

        Tell us more about your irrational hate of Trump Jeff, we like laughing at all your debunked claims of being able to criticize both sides.

        1. Well, to be fair, he is still very upset about completely making a fool of himself and I’m sure “but Tump!” gets him the easy kudos from his danger haired tranny fuckbuddies, so it’s not really a surprise he went with it here.

        2. He thinks trespassing is a capital offense now. That’s how much a partisan he is.

          1. Lying again as usual.

      2. He’s right, though. Protectionist Trumpidiots have to be ecstatic about this pick.

  7. If POTUS Biden is not going to do anything differently than POTUS Trump (meaning, the tariffs stay in place) on China, I am fine with that. I see tariffs as a tool of foreign policy, not economics, when it comes to China.

    I do worry very greatly about Taiwan. We are running out of time because China will make their move soon. They have been rehearsing for years.

    1. Good to know you’re a Biden supporting liberal.

  8. Am I the only one who misread that “Ms. Tai” card as “Mai Tai”?

    1. The position of resident drunkard is taken.

      1. But, clearly, there’s always room for one more Tulpa.

        1. Oh man rent free again!

        2. You think Tulpa is the only one who knows sarcasmic is a drunk?

  9. By the way, this was a bit chilling today. Not for what it proposes, but for the fact that it looks like the whisper campaign within the Democratic party may very well be underway.

    REDUCING ‘REAL RISKS’: Nearly three dozen House Democrats on Monday called on Biden to relinquish his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, in the latest appeal to reform the command-and-control structure so that no single person can initiate a nuclear war.

    “…Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” states the letter spearheaded by Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.“

    “While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter adds. “The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”

    They offer a number of alternatives, including requiring other officials in the line of succession, such as the vice president and the speaker of the House — “neither of whom can be removed by the president if they disagree — to concur with a launch order.”

    It’s a perfectly reasonable debate to have about the power of launching a nuclear strike.

    But this could have been raised during Reagain, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and certainly would have been expected under Trump.

    Had the Democrats suggested this under Trump, I’d have just ticked it off to standard partisan politics and the Democratic party bitching about Dictatorship and Orange Hitler. But the fact that the Democrats are doing this… under a friendly president pretty much tells me everything I need to know.

    Victor Davis Hansen appears to have been prescient about this. [If Biden wins] The Democrats, from within the administration, will quietly begin steps to acknowledge that Biden is not fit to be president through a ‘whisper’ campaign.

    1. Had the Democrats suggested this under Trump, I’d have just ticked it off to standard partisan politics and the Democratic party bitching about Dictatorship and Orange Hitler.

      They did do that. And Team Red called it ‘orchestrating a coup’.

      1. Buyers remorse, perhaps?

      2. No, Nancy Pelosi tried to take Donald Trump completely out of the military chain of command, and the military called it a coup. We’ve been through this.

        1. And impeaching because of…mean tweets. Twice even.

    2. Oh, and they also did that in 2017. The response was a predictable “LOL TDS”.

      1. How’s that for a mushroom cloud.

        But in the end, Mr. Obama seems to have sided with his current advisers, who warned in meetings culminating this summer that a no-first-use declaration would rattle allies like Japan and South Korea. Those nations are concerned about discussion of an American pullback from Asia prompted by comments made by the Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.
        In other words, America’s allies are spooked by the idea that Donald Trump would be too reluctant to deploy America’s weapons — nuclear or otherwise — in their defense. Thus, to reassure our security partners, Obama must not suggest that the United States is officially opposed to starting nuclear wars.

        1. Yes, they filed the bill in 2017 because they hated Trump, not based on sound policy considerations. I get it.

          1. where “it” is diabetes

            1. Oh man, that’s so funny!

      2. The policy’s critics, however, dispute that conclusion. According to the Times, Obama’s advisers believe that, should the U.S. need to “re-alert” its arsenal amid a crisis with another nuclear-weapons state, that very action would risk escalating that crisis, increasing the risk of a hot war.

        More fundamentally, opponents of no first use suggest that there may be circumstances in which a first strike is justified. In The Week, Kyle Mizokami sketches one such scenario:

        A North Korean nuclear missile, buried in a silo deep underground, is being prepared for launch. The silo is too well protected by concrete and steel to guarantee a conventional bomb — or hail of bombs — would destroy the missile. On the other hand, the newly updated B61-12 ground-penetrating nuclear bomb might very well do the trick.
        There are many reasons to worry about Donald Trump commanding America’s nuclear arsenal, his proud ignorance of geopolitics and emotional volatility being two of the most prominent.

        But it’s worth noting that the GOP candidate’s stated position on the use of nuclear weapons is roughly identical to that of the sitting president.

        There’s every reason to believe that Democrats are realizing that Biden is in severe cognitive decline.

      3. “I will be the last to use nuclear weapons. It’s a horror to use nuclear weapons,” Trump told the Today show in April. “I will not be a happy trigger like some people might be … But I will never, ever rule it out.”

        The Obama administration, officially, agrees.

      4. You spend every breath eating cookies or defending democrats. Sometimes both. Well let’s be honest, always both.

        1. How is it like living in a blue state with two Dem senators, bitch? Thank Trump.

    3. So they did exactly what you asked them to do. They proposed a bill, way back under Trump, to try to take unilateral presidential authority away from first strike nukes. Of course it wasn’t out of some sober intellectual discussion about national security or foreign policy. It was because they hated Trump. Got it. But they have now done the same thing under a Democrat. So maybe we can now stop it with the assignment of false motives, and start to consider the idea seriously on its merits – that maybe it isn’t a good idea for one single person to have the unrestrained authority to incinerate the planet, regardless if that person is on Team Red or on Team Blue? Maybe?

  10. The U.S. economy shrank in 2020 for the first time since the financial crisis, but grew rapidly in the fourth quarter and is forecast to continue recovering following its worst year since the 1940s.

    A strong rebound in the second half of 2020 wasn’t enough to overcome the economic shock created by the pandemic earlier in the year. Measured year-over-year, the economy contracted 3.5% last year, the largest decline since just after World War II and the first since 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis. Measured from the fourth quarter to the same quarter a year earlier the economy shrank 2.5%.


    So -3.5%, 2.1%, 2.9%, and 2.5% average to just over 1% over The Con Man’s four year term.

    Worst since the Great Depression.

    1. Anyone so stupid to believe it’s Trump’s at fault for 50 state governors shutting down their economies is too fucking retarded to be using sharp objects such as a keyboard.

    2. Why are you living in the past?

  11. I think China has shown free trade doesn’t work in practice. They get rich (as a nation), we get shoddy products, are reliant on them for various essential components and materials, and instead of freeing China, we’ve become less free because our corporations are jumping to the Chinese government’s orders.

    It’s not supposed to work that way, but it has.

    1. It is cheaper to make goods there. Such as no $15/hr min wage.

  12. “I want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective process.”
    So within normal parameters. I thought that was the new libertarian battle cry. What’s the problem Eric? You got what you wanted.

    1. Reason has been pretty consistently against tariffs for a while now.

      1. Yes, because boehm is sophomoric and a simeton who doesn’t understand trade theory evolved from the 1800s. He is also a China apologist who refused to recognize the anti market actions of China, just like yourself. You oddly support a full SA embargo but whine like a bitch for any reaction to genocide with china or their open theft.

        1. Hey, moron. Protectionism is a nineteenth century theory that’s been proven false. It belongs in the ash heap of history. No true libertarian supports protectionism. When the two parties agree on something, we’re getting screwed.

        2. You’re totally right. Protecting liberty is “sophomoric” and for “simpletons”. Thank goodness we have people like you demanding that Top Men regulate trade for the collective good!

    1. “Nardz” sounds like “nads.” Whenever I see your screen name, I picture a couple of balls. It’s hard to take you seriously because of that.

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