President-elect Joe Biden has selected Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to serve as secretary of Commerce, according to two people familiar with the decision.
Raimondo, who impressed the Biden team when she was considered to be Biden’s running mate, was also in contention to run the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Earlier in December, Raimondo publicly pulled her name out of the running for HHS secretary after people close to Biden told her the job was hers if she wanted it. At the time, she said she would stay focused on Rhode Island.
Raimondo is a former venture capitalist who worked at a fund backed by Bain Capital. She also started her own venture firm in Rhode Island, where she worked before being elected general treasurer of Rhode Island in 2011.
Raimondo was elected governor of Rhode Island in 2014 and served as head of the Democratic Governors Association in 2019. During the presidential primary, she threw her support behind former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, serving as national co-chair for the well funded but ill-fated campaign.
If confirmed by the Senate, Raimondo will preside over a diverse department, whose functions include forecasting the weather, managing ocean fisheries, and setting international product standards.
She will also be landing in the middle of several international trade disputes that were begun during the tenure of Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the few cabinet secretaries to survive President Donald Trump’s entire term.
Ross helped Trump justify tariffs on steel and aluminum imports under a little-used legal provision. Commerce conducted a 270-day investigation, which Ross said showed those imports posed a threat to U.S.’ national security.
That paved the way for Trump to impose duties on the two metals, drawing the ire of allies like the European Union and other major trading partners. Ross also conducted an investigation that could have led to national security tariffs on autos from Europe and Japan, but Trump never followed through on that threat.
Ross was less involved in Trump’s tit-for-tat trade war with China that resulted in duties on more than $350 billion worth of imports. But he did put Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and other Chinese firms on a trade blacklist due to national security grounds.
As a member of the Cabinet, Raimondo could play a key role in helping Biden decide whether or when to roll back any of those actions. Trade relations with China are expected to remain fraught, even if Biden does mend fences with countries in the EU and other nations after four years of Trump’s disruptive actions.
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