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Senate Confirmation Hearing for USTR Nominee Katherine C. Tai, China Issues in Focus

On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing for U.S. Trade Representative nominee Katherine C. Tai.

In her opening statement, Ms. Tai indicated that, “I previously served as America’s chief enforcer against China’s unfair trade practices. 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.”

She added that, “China is simultaneously a rival, a trade partner, and an outsized player whose cooperation we’ll also need to address certain global challenges.”

U.S. Trade Representative Nominee Katherine Tai Testifies on Thursday at the  Senate Finance Committee’s Confirmation Hearing (C-SPAN2- February 25, 2021).

Bloomberg writers Eric Martin and Jenny Leonard reported on Thursday that, “President Joe Biden’s nominee for trade chief called on China to live up to the commitments in its trade pact with the U.S.the strongest signal yet that the new administration plans to build on the accord brokered by its predecessor rather than scrap it.

China ‘needs to deliver’ on the promises it made in the agreement, Katherine Tai, the pick for U.S. trade representative, told senators during her confirmation hearing on Thursday. She acknowledged that former officials have tried before to achieve structural changes in China’s economy and faced obstacles, saying the Biden administration needs to be ‘exploring all our options.'”

The Bloomberg article noted that, “Tai committed to a top-to-bottom review at the USTR with regard to addressing China, telling Senator Rob Portman — who said he did such a review when in the job 16 years ago — it was an ‘excellent idea.’ She noted the Biden administration already has committed to a ‘holistic review’ of China policy.”

Washington Post writer David J. Lynch reported on Thursday that, “During her more than three-hour appearance, Tai deflected Republican concerns that the administration would be slow to ink new trade deals, saying she ‘did not plan to be put on the back burner at all.’

She vowed to implement former president Donald Trump’s signature trade deal with China, and she acknowledged ongoing concerns about Beijing’s trade practices and its hopes of ousting the United States as the world’s technological leader.”

Ana Swanson reported on Thursday at The New York Times Online that, “Asked about rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multicountry trade deal negotiated by President Obama that Mr. Trump withdrew from, Ms. Tai said that she would work with like-minded countries in the Asia-Pacific on the issue of China, but stopped short of calling for rejoining the T.P.P.”

Also Thursday, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported that,

Agricultural trade barriers were frequent areas of discussion with senators asking Katherine Tia on Thursday how the Biden administration would expand trade markets if Tai is confirmed as U.S. trade ambassador.

Mr. Clayton explained that, “Tai’s hearing comes as trade deals and negotiations reached under the Trump administration have set the table for record agricultural exports in fiscal year 2021, which USDA forecasts at $157 billion. The higher trade sales are driven heavily by a boost in sales to China, projected at $31.5 billion in sales for fiscal year 2021.”

The DTN article stated that, “While pointing to China trade promises, [Iowa GOP Senator Chuck Grassley] noted the $31 billion in farm exports to China, while falling short of what was expected, is still positive news. Still, there are structural changes needed in China’s economy Grassley said. Tai acknowledged the long-term challenges of making structural changes are ‘well-worn roads among former USTR, expecting China to change,’ Tai said.

“‘On the issue of the U.S.-China trade, relationship, we need to be exploring all of our options,’ Tai said.”

And Wall Street Journal writer Yuka Hayashi reported on Thursday that, “Ms. Tai is also expected to receive Senate confirmation as she enjoys support from lawmakers from both parties, as well as from business groups and labor unions.”

Meanwhile, Reuters writers Karl Plume and Christopher Walljasper reported on Thursday that, “[Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack] also emphasized the need to expand overseas markets for U.S. goods beyond top customer China following a bruising two-year trade war that pummeled farm product markets and pressured the U.S. farm economy.

“China ‘seems to be living up to its responsibilities‘ under the Phase 1 trade deal that included promises by Beijing to vastly expand U.S. agricultural product imports, Vilsack said.

“However, farm product exports to China totaled only $28.75 billion in 2020, according to USDA data, short of the $36.5 billion year-one target specified in the deal.

“‘It’s important for U.S. agriculture to have multiple market opportunities,’ he said.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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