Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo Tapped for Commerce Chief

President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that he has chosen Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as his nominee for commerce secretary.

Raimondo, a former venture capital executive, has focused on building relationships with business during her time as governor, a job she’s held since 2015. She was Rhode Island’s first female governor.

As commerce secretary, Raimondo will be part of an economic and jobs team that “will help us emerge from the most inequitable economic and jobs crisis in modern history by building an economy where every American is in on the deal,” Biden said in a statement.

Raimondo was among a slate of picks announced late Thursday, including Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston as labor secretary, Isabel Guzman as administrator of the Small Business Administration and Don Graves as deputy secretary of commerce.

Earlier, Biden announced that he had chosen Merrick Garland as attorney general, Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.

Raimondo, 49, has been in public office in Rhode Island 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 produces 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 and her team will inherit a litany of enforcement actions against Chinese technology companies. Most notably, the Trump administration has 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.

In the last months of his term, President Donald Trump signed executive orders directing the ban of various Chinese social media and payment applications. Some of his moves, including the forced sale of TikTok by its parent company ByteDance as well as the ban for messaging app WeChat, have been struck down by the courts.

The Commerce Department oversees the export restrictions via its so-called Entity List and was responsible for broad national-security based tariffs the U.S. imposed on steel and aluminum from key trading partners, including the European Union.

Progressives have raised concerns about Raimondo’s record in business and in state government. In 2011, Raimondo led an effort that cut pensions over the opposition of unions. She’s also faced criticism for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state and is currently quarantining for a second time in recent months after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus.

Raimondo, a Harvard graduate, was a Rhodes Scholar and went on to Yale Law School. She clerked for Judge Kimba Wood on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

She 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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