WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to appoint Gina M. Raimondo, Rhode Island governor, as his trade secretary. This is an important economic position as the agency plays a pivotal role in everything from technology policy to climate change to promoting American Industry, according to a person familiar with the decision.
Ms. Raimondo, a moderate Democrat with a background in the financial industry, has been the governor since 2015. She is considered a relatively traditional choice for trade secretaries, a job overseeing relationships with the business world, as well as overseeing technology regulations and weather surveillance, and economic data gathering among other duties.
Mr. Biden had considered several high profile business executives for the position, as well as the possibility of appointing a Republican. In choosing Ms. Raimondo, the Biden team instead chose a rising star in the Democratic Party with experience in government and finance.
As governor of Rhode Island, Ms. Raimondo introduced training programs, cut taxes, and eliminated corporate support regulations. She clashed with unions but ultimately found a compromise when she revised the state pension plan.
Prior to running for office, she was a founding associate at Bain Capital-supported investment firm Village Ventures and co-founded her own venture capital firm Point Judith Capital. Ms. Raimondo holds a law degree from Yale University and a PhD from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Fellow.
As Trade Secretary, Ms. Raimondo will control an agency that spearheaded an economic struggle with China during the Trump administration.
As a sprawling agency with nearly 50,000 employees, the Department of Commerce has used its tremendous power to restrict Chinese companies’ access to the American market and technology. Through the Bureau of Industry and Security, it limits the types of goods the United States can export and has taken punitive action against Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE. The national telecommunications and information administration helps set standards for global technology companies, while the international trade administration levies tariffs on foreign products that are offered at unfair prices or subsidized.
His responsibilities also include areas that are expected to be central to the Biden administration, such as business development, making it a potentially powerful force in the type of industrial policy that is increasingly being adopted in Washington. The division promotes US business abroad through the Foreign Commercial Service and at home by providing grants to strategically important corporations through the Economic Development Administration.
The Commerce Department also houses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for monitoring weather and managing American fisheries. This makes her a potential player in Mr. Biden’s hopes of slowing climate change.
The Trump administration also gave the Commerce Department new powers to combat foreign currency manipulation by imposing import tariffs when foreign governments weaken their currencies. It is unclear how aggressively Mr Biden will use this tool, although some of his economic advisors are sympathetic to the idea that currency levels have hampered American exports and the economy.