WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, October 26, 2021, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing to consider the nominations of María L. Pagán as Deputy United States Trade Representative (Geneva Office) and Christopher Wilson as Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The embargoed opening statements of the nominees as prepared for delivery are below.
OPENING STATEMENT OF MARÍA L. PAGÁN BEFORE THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Crapo, members of the Committee – good morning. It is an honor to be before you today as the nominee for the position of Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva. I am grateful to President Biden for this nomination, and to Ambassador Tai for her support.
I am also grateful to my family – my parents, my two brothers and their wives, and my son – for their support, love, and inspiration. My parents are doctors and dedicated their professional lives to advancing public health in Puerto Rico. I learned from them the value of public service, of taking pride in what you do, and that there is nothing you can’t achieve if you just give it a try. They couldn’t be here with me, but I am sure they are watching from home.
My son couldn’t be here either, as he is a first-year law student on the West Coast, but his support is enormously important to me.
I come before you today having spent nearly 30 years as a civil servant, first at the Department of Commerce, and for the last 18 years, at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, representing our country in trade negotiations and litigation. After almost 20 years at USTR, I know well the challenges we face domestically and abroad, and I look forward to drawing on this experience to represent USTR at the World Trade Organization if confirmed.
I want to underscore Ambassador Tai’s recent speech where she reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the WTO. However, there is a growing recognition that after 25 years, the institution needs to be reformed in order to be effective and relevant for the next 25 years. If confirmed, it would be an honor to represent the United States in Geneva at this critical juncture for the institution.
In her remarks in Geneva, Ambassador Tai emphasized the Biden-Harris Administration’s belief that trade – and the WTO – can be a force for good, and she laid out her vision to help the organization reorient its mission to better serve and advance the interests of regular people. For example, taking steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic would be a good start. It also means finding a way to incorporate the interests and priorities of workers into the WTO’s work. Additionally, Ambassador Tai spoke about the need to reform the dispute settlement process to help empower Members to secure resolutions and provide confidence that the system is fair. These challenges are central to the WTO’s ability to operate as it was envisioned at its founding.
I know this won’t be easy and any successful reform requires a willingness to work cooperatively with other members. As Deputy General Counsel at USTR, my job is to get things done, and I will bring that can-do approach and attitude to Geneva. We need to be creative; not just focus on the areas where we disagree, but find the areas where we can agree. That also means listening to each other, not just talking at one another. And, it means listening to voices outside of Geneva and Washington, D.C. so we are broadening the perspectives that can be incorporated into our agenda.
That includes working with this Committee and members of Congress. Actions — or inaction — at the WTO directly affects communities, workers, farmers, and small businesses in your states. If confirmed, I commit to maintain open lines of communication with all of you, and represent the interests of your constituents in Geneva.
We are living in challenging times defined by rapid technological innovation, a pandemic, and climate change. Trade has an important role to play in all those areas. If confirmed, I look forward to representing the United States at the WTO to address these challenges and make sure it’s a force for good.
As a longtime member of the USTR family, I know I will be able to count on a fantastic career staff to support our efforts in Geneva. USTR staff is known for its excellence and hard work, but also for creativity and can-do attitude. It is reassuring to know they will be there to support me.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you this morning, and to President Biden and Ambassador Tai for their support. I look forward to answering your questions.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHRISTOPHER WILSON BEFORE THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Chairman Wyden, Senator Crapo, members of the Committee – good morning.
In 1982, as a college junior, I spent a semester interning for my distinguished home-state Senator, Bob Dole. At the time, Senator Dole was serving as chairman of this Committee. To now find myself sitting at this table, in this room, is an honor that is maybe made a little more special by virtue of that personal history. I am honored that President Biden nominated me to serve as the first-ever Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. And I am grateful to you, Senators, for your consideration.
I also want to acknowledge the many friends and colleagues who have enriched my career at USTR over the past two decades. I have had great teachers and excellent examples among both my fellow civil servants and the agency’s political leaders over the years.
I’m glad that my husband, Mark Hegedus, is here this morning, and I’m grateful for his love and support.
If confirmed for this position, I would be the first person to hold the title. To do a job for the first time is both exciting and a little daunting. Fortunately, Congress has provided a very clear expectation about what the position is about, namely to be a “vigorous advocate on behalf of United States innovation and intellectual property interests.” If I’m confirmed, those words will be prominently posted on my desk at USTR.
I understand how protecting U.S. innovation through intellectual property rights is key to our economic success. This principle has been woven through every position I’ve held during my years at USTR. In addition to serving in USTR’s IP office from 2006 to 2008, I have worked on important intellectual property issues in my engagements with trading partners in Central America, Europe and the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and in the context of the World Trade Organization.
This work has reinforced my belief that trade policy must protect American innovation and creative endeavors, and that rules governing that protection should be effectively enforced. I look forward to your input – today and going forward – on how best to advance those objectives.
Senators, one of my early mentors at USTR taught me that, in any negotiation as well as in the process of policy development, listening is as important as talking. I intend to apply that lesson every day I am in this position. My experience has taught me that, perhaps more than in many other areas of trade policy, IP is the subject of strongly-held and often widely divergent views among a broad spectrum of stakeholders. If confirmed, my door will be open to all and I will listen carefully. I assure you that this Committee and its staff would be prominent among those from whom I expect to be guided.
Ambassador Tai has laid out a worker-centered trade policy that ensures, as President Biden often says, our economy grows from the bottom up and the middle out. If confirmed, I will always be thinking about how we can defend U.S. innovation and intellectual property in order to help workers and generate broad-based, durable prosperity.
Finally, Senators, it will be important to me to ensure that the relationship between this new chief negotiator function and the dedicated career professionals in USTR’s IP office is placed on a sound, sustainable, and respectful footing.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning. I look forward to your questions and advice.