Readout of Ambassador Tai's Virtual Roundtable with Senator Sherrod Brown and Ohio Workers

June 04, 2021

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today participated in a virtual roundtable conversation hosted by United States Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), with Ohio elected officials and workers to discuss how trade policy has affected their lives and their communities. Ambassador Tai highlighted the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to creating an economy that gives everyone a fair shot by pursuing trade policies that lift wages, promote worker empowerment and generate economic security. 

Senator Brown kicked off the event, saying “There’s a lot of work to do to regain Ohioans’ trust on trade. It’s so important to hear directly from Ohioans about what a worker-centered trade policy looks like to them, and it speaks to Ambassador Tai’s commitment to the Dignity of Work that she’s doing this today.” The participants also shared their ideas for creating an inclusive and effective worker-centered trade policy.

Today’s roundtable is the first of several conversations Ambassador Tai will hold with Members of Congress and workers across the country. The event took place shortly after the strong jobs report showed that the economy created 559,000 in May. The American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan would build on the recent progress by making historic investments that lay the foundation for decades of economic growth. 

The meeting attendees included:

•    Mayor Annette Blackwell of Maple Heights, OH
•    Mayor Christina Muryn of Findlay, OH
•    Gene Baumgartner, Owner, Ricketts Farm, Inc.
•    Geoff Greenfield, CEO & Owner, Third Sun Solar 
•    Michelle Greenfield, Founder & Owner, Third Sun Solar
•    Dan Molina, Commissioner, Ohio Latino Affairs Commission, Loveland 
•    Eric Spiker, President, UAW Local 4104 
•    Joe Sterling, President, Hall of Fame Central Labor Council, USW Stark County
•    Tony Totty, President, UAW Local 14 in Toledo

The full text of Ambassador Tai’s opening remarks at the roundtable are below:

Thank you, Senator Brown for the very kind introduction and for bringing this group together. You have been a fearless advocate for working people throughout your career and American workers are better off today because of your leadership.

I also want to thank everyone else for joining the conversation. Your voice, your values and your perspective are critical to helping us craft a more inclusive, worker-centric trade policy. 

President Biden is committed to creating an economy that gives everyone a fair shot to get ahead and trade policy plays a critical role in this effort. 

We are committed to pursuing policies that help to lift wages, promote worker empowerment, and generate economic security for workers here at home and around the globe.

At USTR we want to encourage a race to the top with higher standards and real, rapid enforcement of our trade agreements.

In my first few months on the job, there are three examples that should make clear that we are committed to standing up for workers. 

First, we asked Mexico to look into whether workers at a GM facility in Silao, Mexico were denied the right to freely organize. 

This was the first time that the new rapid response tool in the USMCA was used. And it was also the first time in history that the United States proactively enforced the labor provision of a free trade agreement.

Strong labor enforcement is good for Mexican workers. But it’s also good for American workers because it helps to stop the race to the bottom. 

Second, we also announced a formal process to resolve our dispute with Canada over certain actions that hurt the ability of American dairy farmers and exporters to sell a wide range of products to Canadian consumers.

Finally, we submitted a proposal at the World Trade Organization that seeks to address the use of forced labor on fishing vessels. While this is an important issue on its own, its part of our larger effort to make sure labor rights are central to our trade policy

However, to be clear, our focus and efforts will not be limited to these issues. We are also going to fight to expand access for our farmers, ranchers, fishers and food producers around the world.

But going forward, in all of our meetings and policy discussions, we are asking one simple question – how does this help workers?

And how do we help communities who have seen factories close, seen the loss of their tax base, as jobs have moved overseas?

We’re focused on crafting trade policies that support President Biden’s efforts to invest here at home and that invest in our workers and their economic security.

I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas about how we can advance a worker-centered, inclusive trade policy together. 

This is just the start of our conversation and I am excited about all that we can achieve together.