Biden's trade pick vows to work more closely with allies

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Katherine Tai, nominee for U.S. trade representative, testifies before a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s pick to be the top U.S. trade envoy promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach.

In a confirmation hearing hearing Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee, Katherine Tai, Biden’s choice for U.S. trade representative, said she would “prioritize rebuilding our international alliances and partnerships, and re-engaging with international institutions″ to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.″

Tai dodged questions on two politically sensitive questions — whether the Biden administration would drop President Donald Trump's tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and whether it would revive former President Barack Obama's Asia-Pacific trade deal that was jettisoned by Trump.

Tai, considered a problem-solving pragmatist, is expected to be confirmed easily. In a rare sign of bipartisan agreement, the top Democrat (Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts) and Republican (Rep. Keven Brady of Texas) on the House Ways and Means Committee appeared before the Senate panel in support of Tai.

Fluent in Mandarin, Tai served several years as head of China enforcement at the trade representative’s office.

“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,″ Tai said.

Trump slapped taxes on $360 billion in Chinese imports in a fight over Beijing’s sharp-elbowed efforts — alleged to include cybertheft — to promote its own technology companies and challenge the United States in fields such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

Biden and his team have not indicated — and Tai didn't say Thursday — whether they will keep Trump’s tariffs. But the new administration is unlikely to reverse course on Beijing.