WASHINGTON – The commercial division has taken on a new role in recent years and has extensive powers on issues such as technology exports and climate change. On Tuesday, President Biden’s candidate to lead the sprawling agency, Gina M. Raimondo, will appear before the Senate Trade Committee for a confirmation hearing. Ms. Raimondo, the current governor of Rhode Island, is a moderate Democrat and former venture capitalist.
Here are five things to look out for if the hearing starts at 10 a.m.
Counteracting China’s growing technological reach
Senators from both parties are likely to ask Ms. Raimondo how she intends to use the powers of the Department of Commerce to counter China’s growing domination of cutting edge and sensitive technologies like advanced telecommunications and artificial intelligence.
The Trump administration made extensive use of the department’s agencies to crack down on Chinese technology firms, often turning to the entity list, which allows the United States to prevent companies from selling American products and technologies to certain foreign firms to sell without first obtaining a license. Dozens of companies were added List of commercial departmentThese include telecommunications giants like Huawei and ZTE, which many American lawmakers see as a threat to national security.
“You can be pretty sure members are calling for a hard line,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who was a senior trade official during the Clinton administration.
The Department of Commerce was also tasked with setting out President Donald J. Trump’s US ban on Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat social media apps – actions that were later stopped by a court order – and investigating bans on other Chinese apps . Mr. Biden has said He views TikTok’s access to American data as “seriously worrying,” but it is unclear how the new administration will address these issues.
However, the Commerce Department has other roles that some tech experts in the Trump administration believe have not been adequately exploited, such as the role it plays in setting global technology standards under which private companies must operate. China has taken an increasingly active role in global standards-setting bodies in recent years and helped ensure adoption of technologies made in China, Reinsch said, and senators could urge Ms. Raimondo on the issue.
Jumpstart the economic recovery
Mr. Biden highlighted Ms. Raimondo’s role in promoting small businesses as Governor of Rhode Island – both before and during the pandemic.
As trade secretary, she would appoint certain agencies that could help get companies into trouble and advance the Biden administration’s goals of building domestic industry and revitalizing American research and development.
These include economic development programs and manufacturing partnerships that the Department of Commerce offers to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as its core mission of promoting American exports.
The department could also play a bigger role in building high-speed internet access for rural and low-income communities. This is a particularly critical issue as the pandemic has forced a lot of commerce and online schooling. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the Department of Commerce, leads the government’s broadband access efforts.
Enforce trade rules and tariffs set by the Trump administration
Ms. Raimondo may have questions about the department’s planned role in enforcing trade rules. It has a responsibility to impose tariffs on overseas tariffs that are found to unduly subsidize and valorize their goods, making them cheaper to sell in the United States.
The Trump administration also began to view countries’ manipulation of their currency – which can further reduce the cost of a product abroad – as some kind of foreign subsidy, and introduced the first tariffs to counter this. This move is popular with trade unions and many Congressional Democrats, but it has roused foreign allies and it is unclear how aggressively the Biden administration will pursue policy.
Another likely question for Ms. Raimondo concerns the tariffs Mr. Trump imposed on foreign steel and aluminum, ostensibly to protect US national security. Mr Biden, Ms. Raimondo and others have to decide whether to maintain or remove these tariffs, which are supported by metal unions but are deeply unpopular with foreign governments and other industries whose prices have risen as a result.
Counting American voters with no political influence
President Trump and his deputies at the Commerce Department cited controversial efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the state census conducted by the Census Bureau, which is then used to determine Congressional representation and federal funding.
These efforts, which would have given the Republicans more political power, failed after numerous legal challenges and delays in calculating the data. Democrats sharply criticized the effort, calling it unconstitutional.
Senate committee members can ask Ms. Raimondo for assurances on how the Census Bureau will calculate its future population data and when the census will provide the latest figures.
Immerse yourself in Mrs. Raimondo’s past
Like some of Mr. Biden’s other candidates, Ms. Raimondo has seen some backlash from progressive Democrats who have criticized her close ties with venture capital and big technology companies. Before running for political office, Ms. Raimondo was a founding associate at Bain Capital-backed investment firm Village Ventures and co-founder of her own venture capital firm Point Judith Capital.
Some progressives have also condemned certain actions she has taken as governor of Rhode Island, including clashes with unions during a revision of state pension plans and extending liability coverage to nursing homes and healthcare facilities during the pandemic. However, Democrats who support Ms. Raimondo’s swift confirmation are unlikely to be too strong, if any, on these issues.
Some Republicans have drawn attention to an ethical complaint filed by the Republican Party of Rhode Island against Ms. Raimondo complaining that the state awarded a $ 1 billion contract to a gambling company called International Global Solutions Corporation without a tender process. A lobbyist for the group was also an official for the Democratic Governors Association, which Ms. Raimondo ran. But this complaint was fired in 2020and Raimondo’s press office has described the problem as a partisan attack.
Overall, Ms. Raimondo’s potential controversies appear tame compared to her predecessor, financier Wilbur Ross, who was embroiled in a scandal over his role in census calculations and weather forecasting by the department and myriad investment relationships with overseas companies .
Mrs. Raimondos Financial disclosure formsThe book, published earlier this month, also appears indisputable, with an annual salary of $ 150,245 from the state of Rhode Island, plus cash, investment accounts, and other assets, mostly mutual funds, between $ 2.9 million and $ 7.5 million.