WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today will receive the Harry LeRoy Jones Award during the Washington Foreign Law Society’s 2022 Annual Gala. The award is given to individuals who “promote the rule of law – and international law in particular – and ha[ve] a profound and lasting impact on institutions dedicated to justice, international law, or scholarship.”
In her speech, Ambassador Tai will discuss the Biden Administration’s commitment to multilateral engagement and its successes in revitalizing transatlantic trade relationships. She will highlight how the Administration’s early accomplishments – from resolving long-standing trade irritants to negotiating breakthroughs with WTO partners in Geneva – underscore President Biden’s belief that the United States is at its best when working with allies and partners on shared priorities on behalf of workers.
Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Thank you, Ambassador Lambrinidis, for that generous introduction. You have been a great partner on our efforts to strengthen the trans-Atlantic trade relationship, and I look forward to continuing to work with you.
It is a tremendous honor to be with you tonight. This morning, I finished an 18-day trip around the world with stops in Kenya, Germany, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Japan—engaging the G7, G20, ASEAN, and the WTO. So, when I say I’m proud to be part of the Biden Administration’s commitment to reviving American international engagement, I’ve got the passport stamps—and the jet lag—to prove it.
It is especially meaningful to join you for the Washington Foreign Law Society’s 70th anniversary. Seventy years is a long time to maintain excellence and relevance, which you have done.
I was reflecting on the list of past recipients of the Harry LeRoy Jones Award— like Justice Ginsburg, Senator George Mitchell, and Professor John Ruggie—what they fought for, what they worked so hard to preserve, to protect, and to promote. And it occurred to me that their legacy—and your work on justice and the rule of law—is more important than ever today.
We meet in a time of great anxiety. We are still grappling with the supply chain disruptions and economic fallout from the pandemic. Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has killed and displaced millions of people. Putin’s war of choice has driven up the price of food and fuel, and has caused global insecurity in both sectors. It has also exposed the limits of a key premise underlying the current multilateral trading system—that increased trade flows and economic interdependence would guarantee peace among nations.
These hardships—and the questions they pose about our future—are real and profound.
But these are also times of hope and opportunity. A time for partnership and renewed engagement. As President Biden reiterated at the United Nations last week, “the United States is opening an era of relentless diplomacy to address the challenges that matter most to people’s lives—all people’s lives.”
This relentless diplomacy extends to trade policy—and I have spent countless hours with our partners outlining President Biden’s new approach to trade.
President Biden gave me two tasks when he asked me to be his U.S. Trade Representative.
First, to show that the United States is back as a genuine and committed partner.
And second, to craft trade policies that advance the interests of all Americans; policies that promote broad, equitable growth here at home from the bottom up and the middle out.
Since the day I was sworn in as the U.S. Trade Representative, my team and I have been asking hard questions about how trade can be a force for good. How we can deliver meaningful results for our people by working with our partners and pursuing common objectives.
From the Americas to Europe and the Indo-Pacific, we are doing trade differently, bringing the spirit of innovation to our collective approach that will achieve better results. This new multilateralism has the travel, the trappings, and the all-nighters of trade negotiations the way you remember it. But it also has new topics, new fora, and a new spirit of partnership.
We are using our available tools to ensure that workers in Mexico have the right to collectively bargain; we are negotiating the world’s first carbon-based arrangement with the EU to tackle the climate crisis and unfair non-market competition; we are developing new partnerships with a diverse group of Indo-Pacific economies that deliver resilience, durability, and inclusive prosperity. And we are trying to reform the WTO so it meets the needs of regular people.
First, we have been using the USMCA’s groundbreaking Rapid Response Mechanism to support Mexico’s domestic labor justice reform efforts and to empower workers.
Together, we have resolved several cases—and continue to work on many more—to help defend workers’ rights and end the cycle of pitting American and Mexican workers against one another.
Across the Atlantic, we are bringing unprecedented depth and cooperation on transatlantic trade.
After resolving the long-running Boeing-Airbus dispute, the U.S. and the EU reached a historic agreement on steel and aluminum trade and launched negotiations on the world’s first carbon-based sectoral arrangement. This global arrangement will help us achieve our sustainability goals by reducing emissions, and defend key industries and jobs.
We also launched the Trade and Technology Council with the EU last June. This forum allows us to focus our partnership on pressing issues reflecting shared priorities and values like workers’ rights, supply chain resilience, and the distortive, anti-competitive practices by non-market actors.
Our work also expands into the Indo-Pacific, guided by a vision for a region that is free and open, connected and prosperous, secure and resilient.
In May, we launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to strengthen our economic relationships and create sustainable, inclusive growth for our citizens.
IPEF will be a model for the rest of the world that unlocks enormous economic value. It is a 21st century framework designed to tackle 21st century challenges and opportunities, including supply chain resilience and digital trade.
At the beginning of this month, we held the first in-person ministerial with our IPEF partners in Los Angeles. We generated a lot of momentum, and I am excited about the progress we will make in the months ahead as we begin negotiations.
We have also been working with our partners to reform the WTO to be more responsive to the challenges that our citizens face in today’s economy.
In June, WTO Members produced our first multilateral agreements in nearly a decade. We announced a package that will make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of everyday people around the world—on COVID-19 vaccines, fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, and food security.
MC12 was an important success, but there’s more to be done. We must ensure that the institutions that shape the international trading system keep pace with the changing global economy. And we need honest conversations about the role of the WTO in addressing widening inequality, worker rights, and the climate crisis.
None of this is simple nor easy. But we are engaging constructively. That is why it was important for me to host an informal dialogue with fellow ministers on the margins of the G20 about how we reform the WTO’s dispute settlement function.
I’ve been on the road a lot lately. Over the last three weeks, I’ve been to Berlin for the G7, Siem Reap for ASEAN, and Bali for the G20. In all of these meetings, there was a common theme—that we need to address the pressing global challenges of today – together.
And I’ve been pleased to see other countries embracing our call for a new approach and new ideas.
Let me close with a final thought.
John Ruggie, a recipient of this award who made his mark both as a scholar and practitioner of international relations, famously said that multilateralism “coordinates relations among three or more states”, but does so “on the basis of generalized principles of conduct.”
The global economy is changing rapidly. And so our policies need to respond. But change is uncomfortable. I’ve heard the skepticism and anxiety.
But our ability to adapt and chart a better course will depend in large part on our ability to coalesce around shared principles that incentivize resilience, inclusive prosperity, and sustainable growth. And the United States is committed to fighting for the common good with our partners to ensure that the next generation inherits a better world.
Two weeks ago, we saw a concrete demonstration of this vision and shared principles on display.
The trade and labor ministers from the United States, the EU, and Japan published a joint statement on our commitment to eradicate all forms of forced labor, including state-sponsored forced labor, from our trading system.
We need to continue working together to create a global economy that raises standards. We need a global economy that brings more people in. One that evolves to be responsive to the needs and challenges of ordinary people. One that delivers opportunity and prosperity—for all.
For us, this means building a worker-centered trade policy. Empowering workers at home and abroad. Making sure workers’ voices are heard and incorporated in our policies.
That is how we are crafting our competitiveness in this new world. And it does not stop at the border. We want to grow the pie together with our partners and allies, but also work together to ensure that more people get pieces of the pie.
Getting trade right will not happen overnight, just like our democracy was not built overnight. But the ingenuity of our democracy was not that it was born perfect. Our democracy was made to be perfected, to be made continuously into a more perfect union. Past recipients of this award all understood this and devoted their careers to this endeavor.
And our story on trade goes hand in hand with that of our nation. We can craft a more perfect trade policy. But we cannot do it alone. I am counting on all of you in this room to join this cause that will help preserve life, liberty, and opportunity—for all.