Remarks from Ambassador Katherine Tai at the 2021 Committee of 100 Virtual Event

WASHINGTON – Ambassador Katherine Tai delivered virtual remarks tonight at the 2021 Committee of 100 virtual event. In her remarks, Ambassador Tai highlighted her vision for trade policy that puts workers at the center during a critical moment in American history.

The full text of her remarks is below:

Hello Committee of 100! 

I appreciate your invitation to participate in this year’s conference. 

I want to thank Ambassador Gary Locke for his leadership. His accomplishments are reflected in his many titles:  Ambassador, Governor, Secretary, Member of the Washington State House of Representatives. He is an inspiration to us all, especially to those who have devoted their careers to public service. Gary – I want to congratulate you on your election as Chair.

I also want to thank Roger Wang for his service as Chairman over the last three years – and for his work to build the relationship between the governments and the people of the United States and China over many decades of change. 

And thank you to the C-100 members for all that you do for this organization, and in your own communities. 

As the first Chinese American, the first Asian American, and the first woman of color to be confirmed as United States Trade Representative, I am excited about the chance to shape trade policy at this critical moment in American history. 

But, I am also humbled by the responsibility of representing the larger AAPI community during this difficult time. Knowing that many of you have done this in other challenging times inspires me to do my best as I step into this important role for our country.

I eagerly embrace the mandate from President Biden to be creative, thoughtful, and to focus on the needs of all Americans. We face the challenge of emerging from a historic pandemic and rebuilding a more inclusive and prosperous U.S. economy. And we must set ourselves up to compete in the global marketplace with strength, speed, agility, and creativity. 

My job is to drive an innovative approach to trade policy that will advance the Administration’s Build Back Better agenda through unprecedented engagement with communities that include those who have traditionally been overlooked. We will pull up a chair so that everyone who wants a seat at the table will have one, on their own terms.
We also recognize that trade policy does not exist within a vacuum and should be conducted in concert and coordination with our other policies, especially our domestic policies.  We cannot simply pursue aggressive trade policies with one hand while leaving our other hand idle.  U.S. trade policy cannot operate at the expense of our workers and families at home. 

We must meet the challenges of our time – with respect to resiliency and reliability of our supply chains – and become more strategic in deploying our trade tools to reinforce and support our overall economic goals. That is why the Biden-Harris Administration is making historic investments that prioritize resilience, boost our competitiveness, support American innovation and promote broad, equitable growth here at home.  

The American Rescue Plan is helping to stabilize the economy and providing critical resources for getting through the pandemic. 

The American Jobs Plan proposed by President Biden will create millions of good jobs, rebuild the country’s infrastructure and invest in the research and development that will provide the United States with a springboard to outcompete the rest of the world in critical areas. 

And the American Families Plan would make ambitious investments in our kids, our families, and our economic future. It makes education more affordable and expands opportunity for working families and provides economic security to millions of Americans.

However, these historic investments by themselves aren’t enough to meet some of our most pressing challenges on the global stage.  President Biden is committed to multilateralism, and knows that we must work closely with others to address the challenges that we face together.  

I want to acknowledge that we are living in a time of heightened tensions around the world and at home.  The world feels less safe today than at almost at any other point in my lifetime.  This feeling is fueled in part by the fear, frustration, and loss we are experiencing struggling through a once-in-a-century pandemic.  It is manifesting as a growing nationalism and tribalism in our politics and geopolitics.

In the midst of all of this I want to urge everyone to consider a few facts.  Humanity is marked by a fierce competitive spirit and we have great fighters amongst us.  But humanity is also characterized by a strong desire for progress and a deep instinct for morality.  

And I was touched by Chloe Zhao’s remarks after she accepted the Oscar for Best Director.  

She recalled her childhood memories of reciting the Three Character Classic with her father.  I have similar experiences as a child memorizing phrases from the Three Character Classic, which dates all the way to the 13th century.  

The words Chloe Zhao recited in her speech have been in my mind very much lately.  The poetry of those words is matched by the profoundness of their meaning:  At their birth, people are inherently good.  The next line I also still have in my memory:  While their natures are the same, their habits make them different.

I was raised by Chinese Americans and educated by Quakers.  Which means that I have also been contemplating one of the central tenets of Quakerism, which holds something very similar:  that there is that of God in everyone.  

As we face our struggles as individuals, communities, and nations, I urge everyone to recognize the humanity in each other.  And I ask policymakers in particular, to place the interests of human beings at the center of their work – just as we will do at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative by placing workers at the center of our trade policies.  

In trade policy we can and must be tough negotiators and tough enforcers.  We must also be fair.  

In life, we can and must stand up for what we believe is right and not shy away from confronting our differences.  And we must also have empathy.

President Biden and Vice President Harris are committed to building a historically diverse team that looks like America. 

But the goal isn’t simply for the administration to look like America. The representation is important because it is also our job to reflect America – to speak up on behalf of our community, to share our stories, our perspectives, our joys, and sorrows – as we shape the administration’s agenda.

You are all uniquely positioned to understand this.  Some of you come from families that have been in the United States for generations.  Others may have families that are similar to mine – where our parents immigrated to this country in pursuit of the many opportunities America offered. A few may have a mix of both. Some of you chose to become an American - that may make you the most authentically American of all of us.

Personally, I am proud to live in a country where, in just one generation, as the daughter of new Americans, I could grow up to represent the United States and our economic interests around the world.

What has always impressed me about many of the members of The Committee is your dedication to using your voice and influence on key issues. It’s needed now more than ever. 

I look forward to hearing from you often. And I look forward to seeing you all in person hopefully one day soon.

Thank you.