Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks on the state of the US economy on September 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is tapping some of the most experienced trade professionals in Washington to help chart a new course on trade if he is elected.
Speculation is swirling in Washington, D.C. about which one of them could replace Robert Lighthizer, the Trump administration’s powerful U.S. Trade Representative, or be named to a top economic post if Biden wins in November.
Biden’s external advisory committee on trade includes Georgetown University law professor and former World Trade Organization judge Jennifer Hillman and Miriam Sapiro, a former deputy and acting U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) during the Obama administration, according to people familiar with the matter.
Choices may not come until after the election, but Biden has already begun thinking about people he wants in top jobs, his wife Jill told campaign donors on Aug. 27.
Biden’s campaign declined to comment.
The USTR job in the past has sometimes gone to candidates passed over for higher-profile cabinet positions. But as the coronavirus recession drags on and U.S.-China competition grows, the agency is now at the center of economic policy and will likely manage ongoing negotiations with the European Union, Britain, Brazil and India.
Biden’s need to unify his party behind a new presidency might also lead him to pick someone with a more progressive background, trade experts say.
Two labor-aligned policy specialists, Michael Wessel and Cathy Feingold, are also advising the Biden campaign, as is Todd Tucker, a Roosevelt Institute scholar who has been critical of Trump policies, and of trade policy crafted by Biden’s former boss President Barack Obama.
Names floated by Washington trade experts as potential candidates for top roles are Fred Hochberg, the former U.S. Export-Import Bank chairman who recently wrote the book “Trade is Not a Four-Letter Word”; Rhonda Schmidtlein, a member of the U.S. International Trade Commission; and Robert Holleyman, a former deputy U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama administration.
Other potential candidates named by trade experts and lobbyists include some from Congress:
U.S. Representative Jimmy Gomez, a California progressive who helped negotiate stronger labor provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA); Beth Baltzan of the Open Markets Institute, a former lawyer with USTR and Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee who worked on legislation to secure improved aid for displaced workers; and Katherine Tai, the current trade counsel for House Ways and Means Democrats, who played a key role in negotiating the USMCA changes and previously headed China trade enforcement at USTR.