Tai becomes first woman of color to serve as top United States Trade Negotiator

Fallon Dern

Katherine Tai was confirmed as the top United States Trade Negotiator with a 98-0 Senate vote March 17. This decision makes her the first Asian American woman and first woman of color to serve this position.

Tai, 47, is a Taiwanese Harvard and Yale graduate who worked as the chief Democratic trade counselor for the House Ways and Means Committee from 2014 to 2021. There, she attained stronger labor rights provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. During the Obama administration, she served as the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) head of China trade enforcement.

Tai is the only Asian American appointed to a Cabinet-level position under President Joe Biden. As the Biden administration undergoes criticism from advocacy groups and politicians for this limited representation, Tai faces Chinese trade conflict as the only Mandarin speaker in Biden’s entire administration.

However, Tai’s work is not limited to encouraging China to establish a trade deal with the United States and World Trade Organization. With this new position, Tai will work on a resolution with the European Trade Commission over a 16-year trade dispute over aircraft subsidies and safeguarding American livelihoods with investment and enforcement of trade.

Tai’s appointment has been well received by all sides, with both Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Rebublican Senator Mike Crapo applauding Tai’s knowledge.

“We welcome her,” Schumer said. “We give her a great position of authority because of her expertise.”

Affinity group Asian Students in Action (ASiA) member Natalie Chan ’23 said she is proud of Katherine Tai for being so widely respected on the political scene.

“I think that obviously the representation is incredible for Asian Americans and it’s a display of how successful we can be in positions of leadership,” Chan said. “She’s inspiring both Asians and women, and the intersectionality of that shouldn’t be ignored. There’s always been stereotypes perpetuated about Asians and Asian women especially. However, having such a powerhouse in office sets the tone that we’re so much more than math, science and being quiet.”