Biden's Commerce nominee to vow strong enforcement

Gina Raimondo has said she will ensure an aggressive stance to combat 'unfair' Chinese trade practices; Meanwhile, MSCI said it will remove five Chinese companies from its flagship global equity index on Wednesday if it receives no new guidance on their status

by David Shepardson
Biden's Commerce nominee to vow strong enforcement
Gina Raimondo, US President Joe Biden's nominee to be secretary of Commerce, speaks during an event to announce his team on economics and jobs in Wilmington, Delaware on January 8, 2021. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters.

US President Joe Biden's nominee to head the Commerce Department will pledge on Tuesday (US time) to take "aggressive" action in response to trade practices from China.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo will tell the US Senate commerce panel the United States must "take aggressive trade enforcement actions to combat unfair trade practices from China and other nations that undercut American manufacturing," according to a copy of her written testimony.

The Commerce Department under President Donald Trump took aim at China on numerous fronts, adding dozens of Chinese companies to a trade blacklist, including telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies, the country’s top chipmaker SMIC, and drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology.

If confirmed, Raimondo will inherit the prior Trump administration’s unsuccessful effort to bar US app stores from offering Chinese-owned TikTok or WeChat for download.

Three US judges blocked Commerce Department orders issued under Trump that sought to bar new downloads of the two apps and impose restrictions on WeChat and TikTok that would effectively bar their use in the United States. Those rulings are now on appeal before US circuit courts.

Under pressure from the US government, ByteDance has been in talks for months to finalize a deal with Walmart and Oracle to shift TikTok’s US assets into a new entity to address US security concerns.

At a press briefing on Monday, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not answer when asked about the status of the existing executive order that aims to make Bytedance divest Tiktok's US assets but said she would follow up.

"We need to play a better defense, which must include holding China accountable," Psaki said.

The Commerce Department and its bureaus have about 46,000 employees. They include the Census Bureau, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service and the Foreign Commercial Service. It also helps negotiate trade agreements, and enforces laws on trade and national security.

MSCI drops 5 Chinese companies

Meanwhile, MSCI Inc said it will remove five Chinese companies from its flagship global equity index as of the end of January 27 (Wednesday) in the absence of an update on a Trump administration order banning Americans from investing in certain Chinese companies.

The five companies – CGN Power Co, China National Chem, China National Nuclear Power, China Shipbuilding Industry and Inspur International – will be removed from the MSCI ACWI Index, relevant non-market capitalization weighted indexes and custom indexes.

MSCI said on Monday it will delete the securities if there is no fresh guidance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) by 12 pm ET on January 26. The OFAC is an agency within the US Treasury department responsible for enforcing sanctions.

President Joe Biden, who took office last Wednesday, is yet to spell out plans for Trump's executive order forcing the divestment of the Chinese securities, but could easily revoke it.

Former President Trump banned Americans from investing in Chinese companies that the Defense Department says have ties to the military, an assertion many of the companies deny and which China's government has said lacks evidence.

With reporting by Reuters

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