WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today outlined key accomplishments in the past year and laid out the major objectives for the year ahead during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. In her remarks Ambassador Tai highlighted the historic legislative accomplishments that will help the United States compete with the rest of the world and the successful launch of several initiatives to deepen trade ties with America’s closest partners and allies.
As prepared for delivery:
Hello, everyone! Thank you, Afsaneh, for that kind introduction. For over a century, this Council has been one of the most important venues for discussing the critical foreign policy issues facing our nation and the world, and it is a pleasure to be here today.
When I was sworn in as United States Trade Representative 641 days ago, we faced several profound questions. Why the world economy has proven so fragile in the midst of a global public health crisis. Whether the United States was withdrawing from the rest of the world. And whether the international trade and economic system is fundamentally fair.
Two years later, our answers are clear. First, world economic governance must reform and realign to incentivize resilience. Second, as President Biden has instructed, America is back to lead and to partner across the board, including on trade. And finally, trade must become a force for good for ordinary Americans and people around the world.
The preceding decades gave us cheap goods but growing inequality, more production but sprawling, vulnerable supply chains, and workers and communities displaced and left behind.
The pandemic and Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine only highlighted these shortcomings and consequences, as they have wreaked further havoc on supply chains and intensified inflationary pressures around the world.
That is why we are placing workers and everyday people at the center of our trade policy – to craft a durable and fair tomorrow by pursuing resilience, sustainability, and inclusive prosperity.
President Biden has been clear that success abroad and success at home are inextricably linked. And his vision is already bringing tangible results to American communities and workplaces.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest investment in our infrastructure since the creation of the Interstate Highway System under the Eisenhower administration.
The CHIPS and Science Act will bolster our national security by making more semiconductors here in America and create thousands of jobs. We are already seeing substantial investments in places like Ohio, Idaho, and Arizona by companies like Intel, Micron, and TSMC.
Lastly, the Inflation Reduction Act is the largest investment in American history to address the climate crisis. It will create good-paying jobs in wind, solar, and electric vehicle manufacturing, and will fortify and diversify the critical supply chains for clean energy products.
Our closest partners have applauded the Biden Administration’s commitment to engagement and bold action to reinvigorate U.S. economic capabilities and to tackle the climate crisis. But some with longstanding relationships with the United States have also expressed concerns about the potential impacts on their producers and industries.
As we all take new steps to transition to a clean energy economy, many governments will likely advance policies that raise questions. But that also opens the door for us to work together, coordinating our actions to make them more effective. We have been engaged in a deepening dialogue with these partners and look forward to continuing it.
This commitment to partnership and engagement animates all of our work.
Just this year, I have visited 12 countries, 13 states, and many more cities, advocating for a new approach to trade. From the G7 to APEC, Brussels to Bangkok, and Des Moines to Detroit, with steelworkers and farmers and textile innovators, our ideals are transforming into tangible models for others to follow and to build on.
In the last year and a half, we have developed a robust cooperation with the European Union through the Trade and Technology Council. We are working together on supply chains, export controls, and foreign investment screening to safeguard our collective national security.
And we will build on this work next year, including through the first-ever carbon-based arrangement on steel and aluminum trade that we are negotiating. This will be a paradigm-shifting model that drives decarbonization while limiting anti-competitive and non-market practices, and we are already hearing interest from other trading partners eager to join us.
In the Indo-Pacific region, we are crafting an economic framework to tackle individual and collective challenges – like supply chain breakdowns, the digital transformation of our economies, and the climate crisis.
Building for resilience means facilitating a race to the top. That is why the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is not a traditional trade deal anchored on tariff reduction and elimination. It is not the TPP. Instead, the IPEF aims to deliver real opportunities for our people now by focusing on worker standards, the environment, science-based and transparent regulatory systems, and an inclusive digital economy.
After concluding a first negotiating round in Brisbane, Australia last week, we are looking forward to being very busy in 2023, negotiating with our 13 partners and consulting with our stakeholders and partners here at home.
We are also claiming new frontiers in trade with our most motivated partners, in Taipei and Nairobi.
And speaking of motivated partners, we just wrapped up the Africa Leaders’ Summit and the AGOA Ministerial last week. The future is Africa. We have the opportunity now to partner with the continent to drive a human-centric, pro-resilience trade agenda for this future.
Not only that, the Biden Administration continues to lead in international institutions, including at the World Trade Organization. Despite dire predictions, we worked hard – very hard – together with 163 other members, to deliver a package of outcomes at the 12th Ministerial Conference, including the first multilateral agreement on fisheries subsidies. We also agreed to modifications to intellectual property rules for COVID vaccines for a more equitable recovery, especially for people in developing economies.
But we must do more to make the WTO relevant. The organization must keep pace with the changing world economy, and address widening inequality, workers’ rights, the climate crisis, and other fragilities and vulnerabilities.
We will show our commitment to the Asia-Pacific when we host APEC in 2023. I hope that many of you will join us in Detroit in May for the trade ministers meeting. I cannot wait to share Detroit’s story – America’s story – of innovation, resilience, and perseverance, and show our dedication to carrying the torch forward.
That includes lifting up workers and women entrepreneurs, and empowering small businesses to enter the market, grow, and compete. We must unlock economic opportunities for those who have been under-represented in all of our populations.
In our own hemisphere, we are pursuing the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity to enhance our already strong bonds in line with a shared vision for inclusive, people-centered prosperity. Our partners are enthusiastic, and we are eager to start writing this new chapter together.
Speaking of the workers at the center of our trade policy – just two weeks ago in College Park, Maryland, European Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and I launched the U.S.-EU Trade and Labor Dialogue. We convened labor, business, and government representatives from both sides of the Atlantic to focus on eliminating forced labor in global supply chains and better incorporating key stakeholder insights into our work.
Next year, our goal is to expand this work to address the needs of workers and employers in navigating the digital transformation of our economies and workplaces.
Doing trade the right way means standing up to the forces that have harmed and undermined workers, producers, and communities to not just thrive but sometimes also to survive.
We are doing that through our unflinching utilization of the USMCA’s facility-specific rapid response mechanism – one of our key tools for driving a race to the top in North America. This sustains high American labor standards by strengthening the ability of Mexico’s workers to withstand exploitation.
An important part of realizing our vision for human-centric trade is realigning our trade policies toward China, to defend the interests of America’s workers, businesses, farmers, and producers.
The loss of jobs, income, and manufacturing capabilities that accompanied a surge in low-priced imports from China has been real and devastating. For too long, the PRC’s unfair policies and practices undercut American prosperity, suppressed labor rights, and weakened environmental standards.
To vigorously defend our values and economic interests, we need a new playbook on China that serves our interests, and we will continue to press the PRC on its state-centered and non-market trade practices.
Overlaying all of these elements is President Biden’s unwavering commitment to grow America from the bottom up and the middle out and to lead and cooperate on the world stage.
We at USTR and across the administration have been working hard this past year to carry out this commitment. And we are gratified to see that our work is already bringing results.
Here at home, our economy added 263,000 jobs in November, and we created 10.5 million jobs since President Biden took office, including 750,000 manufacturing jobs. Unemployment remains near record lows, household income is up, and inflation is coming down.
Abroad, our partners and allies are coming alongside us and echoing the themes we have been voicing. And we are just getting started. From the Americas to Asia to Africa, from the TTC to the WTO, and Detroit to Atlanta, we will continue to build a more resilient, engaged, and people-focused global economy.
I am proud and truly honored to be a part of President Biden’s team to lead this work. I look forward to delivering more on this agenda – in partnership with many of you – in the year ahead.
Thank you, and I wish you a joyous and peaceful holiday season. And you can rest assured that you will see a lot of me and my team in 2023!