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Yahoo Finance's Jessica Smith breaks down Katherine Tai's Senate confirmation hearing.
AKIKO FUJITA: President Joe Biden's pick for US trade representative testifying before the Senate Finance Committee this morning. Her confirmation's being very closely watched for any hints on how the Biden administration plans to move on trade, especially as it relates to China.
Let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Jessica Smith, who's been following the confirmation hearing for us. And Jess, Katherine Tai, a name that a lot of these lawmakers are very familiar with given that she has led the negotiations on many of the trade policies with China.
JESSICA SMITH: Yes, she is very familiar. She did work very closely with House lawmakers in the Trump administration as they were crafting the USMCA, the new NAFTA agreement last year. So they do know her very well.
But China has been a huge topic throughout this hearing. I think just about every senator has mentioned China, in one form of another, throughout this hearing. The very first question from Senator Ron Wyden was about China. And in his opening remarks, he said four more years of mean tweets and chaos from the White House just won't cut it.
Now, Tai has said that working with allies is going to be very important in dealing with the relationship with China going forward, and she does have experience in this area. In her previous work at the USTR, she was the lead enforcer taking on China and its unfair trade practices at the World Trade Organization. And in her opening remarks, she says that there needs to be a coherent and strategic plan to hold China accountable.
She went on to say, "China is simultaneously a rival, a trade partner, and an outsized player whose cooperation we'll need to address certain global challenges. We must remember how to walk, and chew gum, and play chess at the same time." Now, she does seem to have wide bipartisan support.
She was introduced by both the top Democrat and top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. Again, she was the chief trade counsel for that committee. I did talk to Chairman Richard Neal earlier this week, and he said her biggest challenge going forward is going to be China, but she's ready. Let's watch.
RICHARD NEAL: And I think Katherine's really up to that. She understands enforcement. She understands how to put out offerings. And she understands the negotiating posture that the Chinese government undertakes. She's dealt with those issues for a long period of time.
JESSICA SMITH: There have been a lot of questions about the existing tariffs, and she has not made commitments one way or another. But she did say that tariffs are a legitimate tool for trade policy. Some of the other issues that have come up and that she's going to be working on if she is confirmed, enforcing the USMCA, that longstanding aircraft dispute between the EU and the US, and then other issues like digital taxes and using trade policy to fight climate change. Zack and Akiko.
AKIKO FUJITA: Jess, we've been talking a lot about the global chip shortage, certainly that part of the questioning as well as it relates to trade policy. What specifically has she said about how the Biden administration is-- is looking to improve the supply chains right now?
JESSICA SMITH: She says that they need to move more strategically on supply chain issues. She says that in the past trade policy has been focused on efficiency, and going forward, policy needs to be reformed to focus on resiliency and strategy. So we'll be looking for more on what she might do on those issues. But that's what she's-- she's saying at this point that policy needs to be reformed to be more forward-thinking.
ZACK GUZMAN: All right, Jessica Smith bringing us the latest there from Washington, DC. Appreciate that.