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Biden Looks to a Consensus Builder to Heal a Democratic Rift on Trade


“That is a new policy for a Democratic administration, for sure,” he said. “But it’s because the Democratic Party en masse, that’s where we are.”

Mr. Brown has fought with presidents of his own party about trade in the past, “including some not very nice exchanges,” he said. “I’ve fought with their trade representatives, and this is absolutely a different era.”

“You will have trade policy that will actually work for workers,” he said.

The Biden administration has gone to great lengths to cement its ties with congressional Democrats who are influential on trade. In addition to Ms. Tai’s nomination, it has recruited key staff members for the trade representative’s office from both Mr. Wyden’s and Mr. Brown’s offices. It has also hired former employees of Democratic representatives like Suzan DelBene of Washington, Jimmy Gomez of California and John Lewis of Georgia.

But that does not mean Mr. Biden’s trade policy will be without dispute. Despite strong ties to congressional Democrats and labor unions, the administration will still have to balance the concerns of other factions, like big tech companies that are important donors and foreign policy experts who see freer trade as a way to shore up America’s position in the multilateral system. Those positions could be difficult to reconcile, trade experts say.

Some have also questioned how much influence Ms. Tai might have on matters like China and tariffs, given that she is a relative newcomer to the administration. Mr. Biden has appointed several old contacts to his foreign policy team who have worked closely with him for years, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken; Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser; and Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia.

But Ms. Tai’s supporters say she will probably be an influential voice on trade given her deep expertise and understanding of trade policy. If confirmed, Ms. Tai would be the first Asian-American and woman of color to serve as the U.S. trade representative. Ms. Tai’s parents were born in China and moved to Taiwan before immigrating to the United States, where they worked as government scientists.



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