Who Is Katherine Tai?

Katherine Tai serves as the 19th U.S. Trade Representative. Nominated by President-elect Joe Biden in December of 2020, Ambassador Katherine Tai was confirmed by the Senate on March 17, 2021, and sworn into office on March 18, 2021.

Tai previously served as the chief trade counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means.

Early Life and Education

Katherine Chi Tai was born on March 8, 1974, in Connecticut. She earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a Juris Doctor from Harvard University in 2001.

Before entering law school, Tai taught English at Sun Yat-sen University as a Yale-China Fellow from 1996 to 1998. As an attorney, Katherine Tai worked at several private law firms and clerked for the U.S. District Courts in the District of Columbia and the District of Maryland.

Government Service

Katherine Tai has spent most of her career in public service focusing on international economic diplomacy, monitoring, and enforcement.

In 2007, Tai joined the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as associate general counsel before earning the role of chief counsel for China trade enforcement in 2011, where she was responsible for litigating Washington's disputes against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Tai became trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee in 2014 and was promoted to chief trade counsel in 2017. Katherine Tai played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. trade law, negotiations strategies, and bilateral and multilateral agreements, including the negotiations between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration over the renegotiated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which became effective on July 1, 2020.

U.S. Trade Representative

As a member of the President’s Cabinet at the USTR, Ambassador Tai is responsible for the development and coordination of U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy and oversees trade negotiations. She also acts as the president's principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on all issues related to international trade.

USTR

The USTR is the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the head is the U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet member and Ambassador who serves as the president’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues.

Since joining the Cabinet staff in 2021, Katherine Tai has engaged in trade debates, including those concerning China. At odds with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who seeks to cut many of the trade tariffs, Katherine Tai wants to wait for a broader China trade strategy that addresses protecting U.S. jobs and China's behavior in global markets. The Biden administration has been debating the future of tariffs of up to 25% on imports from China imposed by former President Donald Trump.

In addition to her input on China policies, Katherine Tai is the point person for the new U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement (USJTA), addressing Japanese beef safeguards.

Kai's work also includes spearheading President Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, which will address 21st Century challenges in trade relationships related to technological innovation in the Indo-Pacific region. Partner countries include Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

How Has Katherine Tai's Personal Experience Influenced Her Career?

Katherine Tai's parents were born in mainland China and raised in Taiwan. Through a longstanding Yale program, Tai taught English in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province from 1996 to 1998 amid the changeover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control. When Tai began law studies at Harvard, she decided to link the experiences and become a trade attorney, graduating with a Juris Doctor in 2001.


What Types of Issues Has Katherine Tai Addressed With India?

As U.S. Trade Representative, Tai engages in summits and discussions with India and the country's trade concerns, including ending the moratorium on customs duty for e-commerce trade, which has adversely impacted developing countries in terms of lost revenues.

How Are U.S. Farmers Affected By Katherine Tai's Role?

In 2022, farmers saw an increase in fertilizer prices and U.S. senators pressed U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to develop a plan to secure supplies for U.S. producers.

Calling for Tai to secure current and new relationships with countries that produce and supply fertilizers to U.S. farmers, states have requested the Biden administration develop a plan for the long-term stability of fertilizer trade for U.S. farmers, given the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Bottom Line

Ambassador Katherine Tai serves as the 19th U.S. Trade Representative under President Joe Biden. She has been chief counsel at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as well as trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee.

Article Sources
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  2. The Wall Street Journal. "Biden to Name Katherine Tai U.S. Trade Representative."

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  7. The Hindu. "India Has Become More Strategic About Trade."

  8. Progressive Farmer. "Senators Press USTR's Tai To Develop Plans To Secure US Fertilizer Supplies."