WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted 84-15 on Tuesday to confirm Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to head the U.S. Commerce Department, the agency that repeatedly sparred with China during the prior administration.
Raimondo, a Democrat tapped by President Joe Biden, will oversee the Commerce Department and its bureaus, which have about 46,000 employees.
The department includes the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Census, 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.
At her confirmation hearing, Raimondo vowed to protect U.S. telecommunications networks from Chinese companies. But she refused to commit to keeping telecommunications company Huawei Technologies on a U.S. economic blacklist.
The Commerce Department under former President Donald Trump took aim at China on numerous fronts, adding dozens of Chinese companies to a trade blacklist, including Huawei, the country’s top chipmaker SMIC, Hikvision and drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology.
In written responses to lawmakers, Raimondo said she had “no reason to believe” that the listed Chinese companies should not be.
“We should have no illusions about China’s objectives, which I believe are to undercut America’s longstanding technological advantage and to displace America as the global leader in cutting-edge research and development and the industries of the future,” she said.
Raimondo inherits the Trump administration’s unsuccessful effort to bar U.S. app stores run by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google from offering Chinese-owned TikTok or WeChat for download. The Justice Department last month put appeals of rulings blocking those efforts on hold pending a Biden administration review of the efforts.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)