According to People familiar with the appointment, the Biden administration plans to name Thea Lee, a former AFL-CIO trade official, as head of Labor Department International Affairs Division.
Lee, who most recently served as president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank that often critiques international trade policies, is slated to become the deputy undersecretary for labor affairs in Liberal economy.In that role, she will oversee the bureau that finds labor rights, forced labor and child trafficking around the globe.
Spokesmen from the Labor Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The appointment will give Lee a role in enforcing the labor rights provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or USMCA, negotiated by the Trump administration to replace the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
She also has a say in how the U.S. deals with allegations of forced labor in western China in the textile, solar and agriculture industries.The U.S. has banned cotton imports from some companies which occupy Xinjiang.Activists are pushing for a similar ban on solar panel imports that contain raw materials mined in the region.
The Xinjiang region is identified on the website of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs under the heading Against Their Will: The situation in Xinjiang.Gloves, hair products, textiles and tomato products were added this past year to the list of products made by forced labour or child labor by the agency.
Katherine Tai is a close friend of the U.S. TradeU.S. Trade Representative Lee who pushed as a Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill to strengthen labor rights sections of USMCA.She said that her office is under review of its China policy.
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 China into the World Trade Organization.The AFL-CIO criticized these deals, arguing that they undermined the labor rights and wages at home.She has become deputy chief of staff at the labor organization before running EPI since 2017.