Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the U.S. – EU Trade and Labor Dialogue Meeting

COLLEGE PARK – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, and U.S. Department of Labor’s Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee today co-hosted the inaugural principals’ meeting of the U.S. – EU Trade and Labor Dialogue at the University of Maryland, College Park.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Tai highlighted the importance of collaborating with workers’ organizations, business representatives, and other stakeholders to eliminate forced labor in the global economy.  Ambassador Tai also reiterated the need to build on the progress made to date and the importance of working together to address the issues confronting workers everywhere.

Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the first principals’ meeting of governments, workers, and employers under the U.S.-EU Trade and Labor Dialogue.  

I am pleased to host this dialogue with Executive Vice President and Commissioner for Trade of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, and U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee.  I would also like to welcome the union and business leaders that are joining us today.  

We launched this dialogue to consult workers’ organizations, business representatives, and other stakeholders on transatlantic and global trade and labor issues, especially in relation to the work of the TTC Working Group on Global Trade Challenges.

This group identified two priority areas for cooperation: (1) combatting forced labor, including in global supply chains, and (2) exploring the impact of digital trade on workers.  

These are important global trade issues, and I am pleased that we will work together to examine how trade policy can address these serious issues confronting workers.

Today, our conversation will be focused on combatting forced labor, which will be this group’s priority over the next year.

We know that forced labor and human exploitation continue to present challenges to trading system.  In fact, the International Labor Organization’s recent estimate found that 28 million people globally are still subjected to forced labor.

We must focus on translating our shared values into concrete actions.  As the United States continues to build out our first-ever trade strategy focused on combatting forced labor, we want to hear directly from you on how we can effectively rid our global trading system of forced labor.  

We welcome recommendations on how to (1) prevent forced labor by addressing root causes; (2) protect victims of forced labor in supply chains, and (3) provide appropriate remedies to victims of forced labor.

Addressing forced labor is a key component of our worker-centered trade policy.  I recognize the progress we have made to date, including the G7 Trade Ministers’ Forced Labor Statement from October 2021, and also the Trilateral Joint Statement by the United States, the EU, and Japan from this past September.

We can build on this progress, but we cannot do so alone.  

As I said at the United Steelworkers Convention in August, trade done right also means strength in numbers — getting our allies and partners to come along with us.  

We need all of you and the institutions you represent to drive a race to the top, not just for workers in the United States and Europe, but across the world.  Our meeting today reflects this growing strength, and I am grateful for your partnership.

I look forward to today’s dialogue and now invite EVP Dombrovskis for his remarks.