Biden Picks Rhode Island Governor for Commerce Secretary
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to announce Gina M. Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island, as his commerce secretary, a key economic position given the agency’s critical 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 served as governor since 2015. She is seen as a relatively traditional choice for commerce secretary, a post that oversees relations with the business community but also technology regulation, weather monitoring and the gathering of economic data, among other duties.Mr. Biden had been considering several high-profile chief executives for the position, as well as the possibility of appointing a Republican. In choosing Ms. Raimondo, the Biden team instead opted for a rising star in the Democratic Party with experience in both government and finance.As governor of Rhode Island, Ms. Raimondo introduced training programs, cut taxes and eliminated regulations to support businesses. She clashed with unions but ultimately found compromise as she overhauled the state pension plan.Before running for office, she was a founding employee at the investment firm Village Ventures, which was backed by Bain Capital, and co-founded her own venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital. Ms. Raimondo has a law degree from Yale University and earned a doctorate from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes scholar.As commerce secretary, Ms. Raimondo will control an agency that was at the forefront of an economic fight with China during the Trump administration.A sprawling agency with nearly 50,000 employees, the Commerce Department has used its vast power to curtail the access of Chinese companies to the American market and technology. Through the Bureau of Industry and Security, it places limits on the kind of goods that the United States can export and has taken punitive actions against the Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE. Its National Telecommunications and Information Administration helps set standards for global technology companies, while the International Trade Administration levies tariffs on foreign products that are unfairly priced or subsidized.Its responsibilities also include areas that are expected to be central to the Biden administration, such as economic promotion, making it a potentially powerful force in the type of industrial policy that is increasingly embraced in Washington. The department promotes U.S. business abroad through the Foreign Commercial Service, and at home by providing grants for strategically important businesses through the Economic Development Administration.The Commerce Department also contains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is in charge of monitoring the weather and managing American fisheries, making it a potential player in Mr. Biden’s hopes to slow climate change.Under the Trump administration, the Commerce Department was also given new authority to try to combat currency manipulation by foreign countries by levying tariffs on imports when foreign governments weaken their currencies. It is unclear how aggressively Mr. Biden will use that tool, though several of his economic advisers appear sympathetic to the idea that currency levels have impeded American exports and the economy.