WASHINGTON – Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) met Dec. 15 with Katherine Tai, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. trade representative.

Katherine Tai

They discussed the need to make sure U.S. trade policies work for everyone, specifically workers and consumers; and to make sure trade deals consider important questions like worker protections, environmental protections, and whether Hawaii small businesses and farmers are supported by these deals.

They also discussed the importance of open communication between the executive and legislative branches on trade issues.

In closing, Hirono indicated that she looked forward to having other conversations with Tai in the future.

On Dec. 17, Hirono, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, announced that she would support a waiver to the National Security Act of 1947 to allow Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as the next secretary of defense after meeting with the nominee.

Lloyd Austin

“After speaking with Gen. Austin today in a meeting that covered a wide range of issues – including our strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region and the importance of diplomacy to our national security – I will support a waiver of the National Security Act for the general to serve as our next secretary of defense,” Hirono said. “This is not a decision that I made lightly and I hope the waiver process does not become routine. I will continue to assess each nomination on its merits – just as I did when I supported Gen. [Jim] Mattis’ nomination in 2017.”

During their meeting, Hirono shared her perspective that the secretary of defense should be someone who can question longstanding assumptions and be willing make necessary structural changes at the Department. Hirono and Austin discussed the need for improvements in how the department deals with sexual assault, sexual harassment, and retaliation within DOD.

They discussed the importance of diplomacy in strengthening U.S. national security interests around the world. Hirono urged Austin to prioritize sustained DOD engagement and investment in the Indo-Pacific, including with U.S. allies in the Freely Associated States.

Hirono and Austin also discussed the importance of continued modernization at our four public shipyards, which includes Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. This modernization is essential to military readiness. Austin emphasized the importance he would place on housing, child care, mental health care, and other quality-of-life issues essential to service members and their families.

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