Biden Administration to Name Thea Lee to Top Labor Post -- 2nd Update
By Bob Davis
The Biden administration plans to name Thea Lee, a former
AFL-CIO trade official, to head the Labor Department's
international affairs division, according to people familiar with
Ms. Lee, who most recently served as president of the Economic
Policy Institute, a liberal think tank that often critiques free
trade policies, is slated to become the deputy undersecretary for
international labor affairs. In that job, she will oversee the
bureau that investigates labor rights, forced labor and child
trafficking around the globe.
Spokesmen for the Labor Department didn't immediately respond to
requests for comment.
The appointment will give Ms. Lee a role in enforcing the labor
rights provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or
USMCA, negotiated under the Trump administration to replace the
North American Free Trade Agreement.
She will also have a say in how the U.S. deals with allegations
of forced labor in the textile, solar and agriculture industries in
China's western Xinjiang region. The U.S. has barred cotton imports
from some companies that do business in Xinjiang. Activists are
pushing for a similar ban on solar panel imports that contain raw
materials mined in the region.
The Xinjiang region is featured prominently on the website of
the bureau of international labor affairs under the heading
"Against Their Will: The Situation in Xinjiang." Gloves, hair
products, textiles, yarn, and tomato products were added this past
year to the agency's list of products made by forced labor or child
Ms. Lee is a close friend of U.S. Trade Representative Katherine
Tai, who as a Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill pushed to
strengthen the labor rights sections of USMCA. Ms. Tai has said
that her office is undertaking a review of its China policies.
Ms. Lee spent 20 years at the AFL-CIO, including stints as its
main trade official at a time when Washington was pursuing trade
policies that included negotiating Nafta and shepherding China into
the World Trade Organization. The AFL-CIO opposed those deals,
arguing that they undermined labor rights and wages at home. She
became deputy chief of staff at the labor organization before
running EPI since 2017.
Write to Bob Davis at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 09, 2021 15:13 ET (19:13 GMT)
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