Katherine Tai (CNN)

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

WASHINGTON — By a vote of 98-0, the Senate on Wednesday approved trade expert Katherine Tai to lead the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, making her the first Asian American and first woman of color to serve in the post.

She has vowed to address U.S. concerns over China’s unfair economic practices, as the administration of President Joe Biden braces for what it calls a “long-term” strategic competition with the world’s second-largest economy.

She will also play a key role in shaping the new administration’s trade policy after the previous administration under Donald Trump faced criticism for its go-it-alone approach, using tactics such as slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from trade partners including close U.S. allies.

Tai was born to Chinese parents who grew up in Taiwan. When she was tapped for the top U.S. trade official post late last year, she was the chief lawyer on trade for the main tax-writing committee of the House of Representatives. She had previously served in the USTR office as chief counsel for China trade enforcement.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said in a statement, “Congratulations to Katherine Tai on her historic confirmation as our new U.S. trade representative. She is an expert in her field and a deeply committed public servant. Her expansive knowledge of the human impact of trade policies will inform her work on behalf of American workers and families. We are lucky to have her and I look forward to finding opportunities to work with her and the Biden Administration on trade issues.”

“I am so proud to be celebrating Katherine Tai’s well-deserved confirmation as the first Asian American and woman of color to serve as U.S. trade representative,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “As the only Biden Cabinet nominee to be unanimously confirmed so far, the support she earned is a testament to the incredible work she has done.

“I was privileged to experience this first-hand when we worked together on the Ways and Means Committee on important trade issues like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, where she displayed a vast knowledge of the current and coming trade challenges.

“Through her work as chief counsel for China trade enforcement at USTR, Ms. Tai has also demonstrated her commitment to enforcing trade deals that work for the United States. That’s why I have been such a vocal supporter of hers. I’m also grateful to President Biden for nominating Katherine to this important position. The president has expressed his commitment to building an executive branch that looks more like America, and he has worked to advance that promise every day, ensuring that AAPIs, who have been overlooked so long, finally have a seat at the table.”

Chu and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) led a letter to Biden, when he was president-elect, with 10 women members of Congress urging the nomination of Tai.

“She would be the first Asian American and the first woman of color to serve in this role, breaking barriers and clearing the way for others to follow,” Chu said at the time. “She would also be one of the highest-ranking Asian American Pacific Islander officials in our government. Katherine’s name is one we raised during a recent CAPAC meeting with the Biden Transition Team. It is imperative that we ensure AAPIs are appointed to all levels of the federal government, but especially in the Cabinet.”

“Katherine Tai is going to make a great U.S. trade representative,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said on the Senate floor before the vote. “She’s got the right diversity of experience. She’s focused on protecting American workers and creating new high-skill, high-wage jobs in this country.”

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