Biden Commerce Pick Raimondo Vows ‘Aggressive’ China Steps

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The U.S. must take “aggressive” steps to combat China’s “unfair” trade practices while also investing to bring manufacturing back to the country, said Gina Raimondo, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Commerce secretary.

Raimondo pledged to respond to Chinese policies that hurt American workers, while stopping short of a specific game plan. The new administration will take time to review policies carried over from former President Donald Trump, including tariffs, she said.

“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 Trump’s hard-line China measures, 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.”

Biden Commerce Pick Raimondo Vows ‘Aggressive’ China Steps

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 entity list that requires those licenses. She said she would consult on the matter and make an assessment based on national security.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it hoped the U.S. would “respect market economy and fair competition principles and work to provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for all countries’ businesses” in response to a question on Raimondo’s comments.

“China will continue to take necessary measures to safeguard its businesses’ legitimate rights and interests,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a briefing in Beijing.

‘Back door’

“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 back-door 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 the U.S. will “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.

Tapped to lead a department with wide-ranging international and domestic responsibilities, Raimondo also underlined the need for “bold” action to help America’s tourism, travel and restaurant industries recover from the pandemic social distancing that crushed business. She told senators that the U.S. needs to step back and devise a national spectrum strategy for transformative 5G communications airwaves.

Raimondo said that social media companies need to be held accountable for the content on their platforms, and that she would work with Congress to make changes to Section 230, a liability waiver that the companies depend upon to allow relatively unfettered speech by users. Trump had demanded that the protections be revoked.

“We need platform accountability, but of course that reform would have to be balanced against the fact that these businesses rely upon user generated content for their innovation and have created many thousands of jobs,” she said.

She also pledged to work to expand broadband access.

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.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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