Yellen, among the first of Biden’s picks to be confirmed, is the first woman to hold the job of overseeing the economy.
The U.S. must take “aggressive” steps to combat China’s “unfair” trade practices while also investing in American manufacturing to return production to the country, said Gina Raimondo, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Commerce secretary.
“China has clearly behaved in ways that are anti-competitive — dumping cheap steel and aluminum into America, which hurts American workers and hurts the ability of our companies to compete,” Raimondo, who has served as governor of Rhode Island since 2015, said Tuesday at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.
If confirmed, she said, “I plan to be very aggressive to help Americans compete against the unfair practices of China.”
Her comments echo those of other Biden officials, who have signaled they will continue some of Donald Trump’s hard-line economic policies toward China, though they’ve so far omitted specifics.
Last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. is “prepared to use the full array of tools” to address actions such as “dumping products, erecting trade barriers and giving illegal subsidies to corporations.”
Raimondo and her team will inherit numerous enforcement actions against Chinese technology companies. Most notably, the Trump administration instituted an export ban for Huawei Technologies Co. that requires American firms to obtain government licenses before they’re allowed to sell U.S. tech and intellectual property to the Chinese telecommunications-equipment giant.
Raimondo, under questioning, didn’t specifically commit to keeping Huawei on the entities list that requires those licenses. She said she would consult on the matter and make an assessment based on national security.
“We can’t have the Chinese or really anyone having a back door into our network and compromising in any way our national or economic security,” Raimondo also said Tuesday. “I will use the bold toolkit at my disposal to the fullest extent possible to protect Americans and our network from Chinese interference or any kind of backdoor influence into our network — and that’s Huawei, ZTE, or any other company,” she said, referring to China’s ZTE Corp., another telecommunications equipment firm.
Raimondo also said that “we need to invest in innovation and technology in our manufacturing sector.”
Her stated objective of “reshoring” factory jobs to the U.S. is an echo of Trump, though his goal proved elusive. The number of U.S. manufacturing jobs stood at 12.3 million in December, little changed from four years earlier. Two decades ago, the figure topped 17 million.
Raimondo, 49, has been in public office in her home state since 2011, when she was sworn in as state treasurer. Before that, she spent more than a decade working in venture capital, including co-founding Point Judith Capital.
The Commerce Department comprises a variety of agencies including the Census Bureau, which runs the decennial count and compiles economic data; the International Trade Administration, charged with monitoring unfair global competition from dumping and subsidies, as well as enforcing U.S. trade laws; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, home to the National Weather Service; and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Raimondo was national co-chairwoman of Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.