Katherine Tai Becomes First Asian American U.S. Trade Representative

The daughter of immigrants also made history as the first woman of color to serve as the nation’s top trade envoy.

Katherine Tai was sworn in as U.S. trade representative on Thursday, making history as the first Asian American and first woman of color to hold the top post.

Tai was unanimously confirmed to the position by the U.S. Senate the previous day. The longtime government trade lawyer is well-liked on both sides of the aisle.

On Thursday, Tai’s swearing in was led by Vice President Kamala Harris, who herself made history earlier this year as the first Black American, first Asian American and first woman in her post. Both Harris and Tai are daughters of immigrants.

In her new role, Tai, 47, will head up the enforcement of U.S. trade deals, including by interfacing with U.S. allies abroad. Her top priorities in the role include working on supply chains for the U.S. to recover from the pandemic-related economic crisis and addressing the Chinese government’s trade practices.

“The chance to serve the American people, fight on their behalf, and represent them on the world stage once again will be the greatest honor of my life,” Tai said in February remarks to lawmakers.

The daughter of parents who grew up in Taiwan said that serving as the nation’s top trade representative worldwide ”holds special resonance for me as the daughter of immigrants.” Noting that her father was a researcher for the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and her mother is currently working at the National Institutes of Health, Tai said she was “proud to live in a country where, in just one generation, their daughter could grow up to represent the U.S. and our interests around the globe.”

In previous roles, Tai served as Democratic trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee and under the Obama administration as the U.S. trade representative’s head of China trade enforcement.

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