WASHINGTON — The Commerce Division has taken on new significance lately, with wide-ranging authority over points as broad as expertise exports and local weather change. On Tuesday, President Biden’s nominee to run the sprawling company, Gina M. Raimondo, will seem earlier than the Senate Commerce Committee for a affirmation listening to. Ms. Raimondo, the present governor of Rhode Island, is a reasonable Democrat and former enterprise capitalist.
Listed here are 5 issues to look at for because the listening to will get underway at 10 a.m.
Countering China’s rising technological attain
Senators of each events are more likely to query Ms. Raimondo on how she plans to make use of the Commerce Division’s powers to counter China’s rising mastery of cutting-edge and delicate applied sciences, like superior telecommunications and synthetic intelligence.
The Trump administration made heavy use of the division’s authorities to crack down on Chinese language expertise companies, turning typically to the so-called entity checklist, which permits america to dam corporations from promoting American merchandise and expertise to sure international companies with out first acquiring a license. Dozens of corporations have been added to the Commerce Department’s list, together with telecom giants like Huawei and ZTE, which many American lawmakers see as threats to nationwide safety.
“You might be moderately assured that the members will demand a tricky line” on China, stated William Reinsch, a commerce skilled on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research who was a high-level commerce official throughout the Clinton administration.
The Commerce Division was additionally given accountability for outlining President Donald J. Trump’s U.S. ban on the Chinese language-owned social media apps TikTok and WeChat — actions that have been subsequently halted by a courtroom order — and for learning bans in opposition to different Chinese language apps. Mr. Biden has said he sees TikTok’s entry to American information as a “matter of real concern,” however it’s unclear how the brand new administration will deal with these points.
However the Commerce Division has different capabilities that some tech consultants say have been underutilized within the Trump administration, just like the function it performs in setting international expertise requirements that personal companies should operated below. China has taken an more and more lively function in international standards-setting our bodies lately, serving to to make sure adoption of applied sciences which can be made in China, Mr. Reinsch stated, and senators could press Ms. Raimondo on the problem.
Bounce-starting the financial restoration
Mr. Biden has emphasised Ms. Raimondo’s function in serving to to advertise small companies whereas serving because the governor of Rhode Island — each earlier than and throughout the pandemic.
As commerce secretary, she would wield sure authorities that would assist struggling companies and advance the Biden administration’s targets of increase home business and revitalizing American analysis and growth.
That features financial growth packages and manufacturing partnerships that the Commerce Division affords to small and midsize enterprises, in addition to its core mission of selling American exports.
The division might additionally play a much bigger function in increasing high-speed web entry for rural and low-income communities, a very important subject because the pandemic has pressured a lot commerce and education on-line. The Nationwide Telecommunications and Info Administration, an company inside the Commerce Division, leads the federal government’s efforts on broadband entry.
Imposing commerce guidelines and tariffs set by the Trump administration
Ms. Raimondo might face questions in regards to the division’s deliberate function in implementing commerce guidelines. It has the accountability for imposing tariffs on international international locations which can be discovered to be unfairly subsidizing and pricing their items, making them cheaper to promote in america.
The Trump administration additionally started contemplating international locations’ manipulation of their forex — which may additional drive down the price of a product overseas — as a kind of international subsidy, and imposed the primary tariffs to counter that. That step is widespread with labor unions and lots of congressional Democrats, however it has rankled international allies, and it’s unclear how aggressively the Biden administration will pursue the coverage.
One other doubtless query for Ms. Raimondo pertains to the tariffs that Mr. Trump levied on international metal and aluminum, ostensibly to guard American nationwide safety. Mr. Biden, Ms. Raimondo and others should resolve whether or not to take care of or rescind these tariffs, that are supported by steel making unions however deeply unpopular with international governments and different industries whose costs rose consequently.
Counting the American citizens with out political affect
President Trump and his deputies on the Commerce Division led a controversial effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the state inhabitants counts performed by the Census Bureau, that are then used to find out congressional illustration and federal funding.
That effort, which might have translated into extra political energy for Republicans, failed after quite a few courtroom challenges and delays in computing the information. Democrats strongly criticized the hassle, calling it unconstitutional.
Members of the Senate committee could search reassurances from Ms. Raimondo about how the Census Bureau will calculate its inhabitants information sooner or later, and when the Census expects to submit the newest numbers.
Delving into Ms. Raimondo’s previous
Like a few of Mr. Biden’s different nominees, Ms. Raimondo has confronted a little bit of backlash from progressive Democrats, who’ve criticized her shut ties with enterprise capital and large tech companies. Earlier than working for political workplace, Ms. Raimondo was a founding worker on the funding agency Village Ventures, which was backed by Bain Capital, and co-founded her personal enterprise capital agency, Level Judith Capital.
Some progressives have additionally condemned sure actions she took as governor of Rhode Island, together with clashing with unions throughout an overhaul of the state’s pension plans and lengthening some legal responsibility protections to nursing properties and well being care services throughout the pandemic. However Democrats, who will help Ms. Raimondo’s speedy affirmation, are unlikely to press too exhausting on these points, if in any respect.
Some Republicans have pointed to an ethics criticism filed in opposition to Ms. Raimondo by the Rhode Island Republican Get together, which complained that the state had granted a $1 billion contract to a gaming firm known as Worldwide World Options Company with out a aggressive bidding course of. A lobbyist for the group was additionally an officer with the Democratic Governors Affiliation, which Ms. Raimondo led. However that criticism was dismissed in 2020, and Raimondo’s press workplace has described the problem as a partisan assault.
Over all, Ms. Raimondo’s potential controversies seem tame in contrast together with her predecessor, the financier Wilbur Ross, who turned enmeshed in scandal over his function within the division’s calculation of the census and weather forecasting, and myriad investment ties to international companies.
Ms. Raimondo’s financial disclosure forms, launched this month, additionally seem uncontroversial, exhibiting an annual wage of $150,245 from the state of Rhode Island and between $2.9 million and $7.5 million in money, funding accounts and different belongings, primarily mutual funds.