WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pet industry organizations have congratulated Katherine Tai for her appointment as United States Trade Representative (USTR), the country’s highest-ranking trade position, under the Biden administration. Tai was confirmed by the US Senate on March 17 in a unanimous vote.

Dana Brooks, president and chief executive officer of Pet Food Institute (PFI), noted Tai is only the fourth woman to lead the Office of the United States Trade Representative in the nation’s history.

“Our members, who make safe dog and cat food for beloved pets both domestically and abroad, rely on USTR to formulate and execute trade policy that allows them to establish and expand their presence in key foreign markets,” Brooks said. “We are excited that Ambassador Tai is bringing her wealth of trade policy experience to USTR, and we look forward to continuing to work with her in this new role.”

Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative under the Biden-Harris administration. 

Pet food exports reached $1.7 billion in 2020, of which the three largest export markets were Canada, Japan and Mexico, according to PFI. China is an up-and-coming export market for US pet food producers, with $11 million in US exports to the country in 2019 escalating to roughly $30 million in 2020.

Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) issued the following statement following Tai’s confirmation.

“On behalf of the US animal food industry, we extend our congratulations to the new US chief trade negotiator, Ambassador Katherine Tai,” Cullman said. “Ambassador Tai’s experience in the House Ways and Means Committee along with her previous tenure with the US Trade Representative makes her an excellent choice for this position. Her negotiating skills will also be critical for the Biden administration as it works with allies to realize the full benefits of the recently implemented trade agreements, pursue modern agreements with new countries and regions, and ensure that transparency and scientific integrity is at the center of decision-making within international trade bodies."

AFIA also shared that US exports of all pet food, feed and feed ingredient totaled $13 billion in 2020.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) also released a statement highlighting Tai’s career, including seven years as chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee and a position as chief council for China trade enforcement for the Office of the US Trade Representative.

“Ambassador Tai is eminently qualified to serve as the US Trade Representative and has demonstrated her deep familiarity with opening foreign markets and reducing barriers for US food and agriculture as well as developing strong bipartisan support for trade agreements,” said Mike Seyfert, president and chief executive officer of NGFA. “She has the experience and expertise to secure greater market access for US grain, feed and oilseed products and to ensure enforcement of clear and fair rules with our trading partners. The NGFA looks forward to working with Ambassador Tai and is ready to engage with her and any new staff at the Office of the US Trade Representative.”

News of Tai’s appointment comes at a critical time for the pet food and treat industry, as the outlook for international trade remains unclear following the Trump-Biden transition, a looming ocean freight crisis, and a recent ban of US animal food exports to Russia.

In her confirmation hearing, Tai shared her trade experiences, priorities and commitments for representing US manufacturers and businesses on the global stage.

“Our first priority will be to help American communities emerge from the pandemic and economic crisis,” Tai said. “USTR has an important role to play in that effort. Working with Congress, the entire Biden-Harris administration, and other countries and trusted partners, USTR will help to build out strong supply chains that will get our economy back on track.”

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