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Trade, Treasury nominees advanced by Senate Finance

Tai and Adeyemo would make history if they're confirmed

Adeyemo would be the first Black in the Treasury's No. 2 position.
Adeyemo would be the first Black in the Treasury's No. 2 position. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

The Senate Finance Committee voted Wednesday to advance nominees for U.S. trade representative and deputy Treasury secretary.

In separate voice votes, the committee approved the nominations of Katherine Tai for trade representative and Adewale “Wally” O. Adeyemo for deputy Treasury secretary.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called Tai and Adeyemo well qualified for the posts and the challenges ahead of them in shaping trade and financial policies as the U.S. recovers from COVID-19.

Tai “knows precisely the kind of smarter and stronger approach the country needs on trade, cracking down on China’s trade cheating and using the leverage of our economic allies,” Wyden said.

Ranking member Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, said, “Mr. Adeyemo is known for his bipartisan approach, working with members on both sides of the aisle in the Obama administration on issues such as currency manipulation. I expect that approach to carry over to his new role at Treasury.”     

Tai has pledged that the Biden administration will pursue worker-centric trade policies. Adeyemo has said Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and the Biden administration will use the department’s authorities to address U.S. economic inequality while also defending U.S. economic interests against international threats.

The two Biden nominees said at their respective nomination hearings that they view China as a strategic competitor. 

If confirmed, Tai would be the first Asian American and woman of color to become the nation’s top trade official. Adeyemo would be the first Black person in the Treasury Department’s No. 2 job. They also are both children of immigrants, with Tai’s parents coming from Taiwan and Adeyemo’s from Nigeria.

Tai most recently was chief trade lawyer for the House Ways and Means Committee, where she helped Democrats negotiate enforcement provisions for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade that replaced the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. She’s drawn support from business, environmental, agriculture, manufacturing and other groups that say Tai has shown toughness and fairness in her work.

Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., and ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, made a joint appearance at her Feb. 25 hearing to urge the Finance Committee to act quickly on her nomination.

Tai would lead an agency where she worked for seven years in the general counsel’s office during the Obama administration. She was chief counsel for China trade enforcement, a role that included responsibility for developing cases and representing the U.S. before the World Trade Organization in disputes against China. She held that position from 2011 until 2014, when she joined the House committee as trade counsel.

Senate Finance Committee member Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced Adeyemo at his Feb. 23 nomination hearing, noting that he had been her chief of staff when she was setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren called him a trusted and knowledgeable adviser. 

Adeyemo brings a background of public and private sector expertise in domestic and international economics. He is familiar to the Finance Committee from his years in the Obama administration, when he was deputy national security adviser for International Economics and deputy director of the National Economic Council. He has also held senior management positions at the Treasury Department and was the chief negotiator on macroeconomic policy provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

From 2017 to 2019, he was a senior adviser at BlackRock Inc., a global investment firm. He became the president of the Obama Foundation and will leave that post if confirmed.

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