Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today joined President Biden and Vice President Harris for the 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit. In her remarks, Ambassador Tai highlighted progress under USTR’s unprecedented Tribal consultations and engagements with Native and Indigenous communities. Ambassador Tai also underscored the importance of using trade as a force for good to address key issues facing Tribal Nations.

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


Good afternoon, everyone.  I want to echo President Biden and Secretary Haaland and underscore how important our engagement with Tribal and Indigenous is, especially as we continue to shape more inclusive and fairer trade policies.

As the U.S. Trade representative, it is important to note how often I reflect on “a people of traders at the waters’ edge” was the meaning of the name of the original inhabitants of the land on which we are assembled for today’s Summit.

Our nation’s story on trade begins with Indigenous communities.  Your ancestors were our first traders.  From pelts to food, tools, and so much more, trade among tribes was vibrant and flourishing well before the arrival of European colonizers.  It was a sustaining, driving way of life.

This legacy is particularly significant for our approach to U.S. trade policy under President Biden and Vice President Harris. 

Now, for the first time in our agency’s history, we are actively and intentionally working to ensure that the dignity, priorities, and well-being of the world’s first and original traders are reflected as we craft a new story on trade and investment policy.

Our economy is more than just numbers.  It is made of people, so we need to make sure that it works for our people.  Not only for those that know the ins and outs of trade policymaking, but especially for those that have been traditionally left out.

This is at the heart of how we are building our economy from the middle out and the bottom up and ensuring that more people across our society get their fair share of the economic pie.

I am proud to say that the President’s Trade Policy Agenda and Annual Report now include unprecedented objectives and updates on engaging with Tribal Nations, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Native and Indigenous community-based organizations, academia, entrepreneurs, and enterprises. 

Not only must you claim your rightful seat a seat at the table, your voices must help shape our work. 

This is why, at USTR, we have made it a priority to hear directly from Tribal Nations.  To meet you where you are, to hear your concerns and to learn from you. 

One of the first actions I took after being confirmed as the U.S. Trade Representative was to host Tribal Consultations with Tribal leaders in what many believe were the first in USTR’s history.  They are now an annual standard.    

This is important because our approach to trade is grounded in equity, fairness, and respect.  If done right, trade can be a force for good to empower working families and underserved communities. 

In our Tribal consultation meetings and discussions, we are reminded of the importance of acknowledging and resurrecting traditional trade practices and economies and the challenges operating in a global economy.

So, our way of honoring this rich history is to put you front and center of our trade policymaking.

We sought and appointed Indigenous experts to serve as cleared advisors on trade advisory committees.  This is a first step to better inform our approach when we engage with other economies, including in the Indo-Pacific, the Western Hemisphere, and Africa.

As a hallmark moment for our host year for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, meetings, I was honored to convene the first-ever minister-level dialogue with Indigenous leaders in San Francisco. 

This was an important opportunity for my fellow trade ministers to engage directly with our Indigenous leaders, so that we can all work together to build more inclusive trade policies and economies.

I also want to note that the APEC Ministers Statement this year includes specific mentions of Indigenous Peoples as an important part of realizing equitable economic growth.

We are also continuing to work with the U.S. International Trade Commission to better understand how trade might impact our Tribal communities and Native and Indigenous workers. 

The USITC’s investigation revealed that we need more disaggregated data and research, so we are partnering with our inter-agency colleagues to change that.

Influenced by your voices, USTR is also working with colleagues across the U.S. Government to explore how trade tools and rules may better address issues like misappropriation of Indigenous goods and capacity building for Native entrepreneurs and workers.

I would also like to note that the United States greatly appreciates the work that is happening among partners in the Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement, or IPETCA.

Thanks to your guidance, the United States announced that we are actively and eagerly exploring becoming an observer to the Arrangement.

Our entire administration is fully committed to using trade as a force for good for Indigenous workers everywhere.

Just as Native heritage and culture are foundational to our Nation’s identity and fabric, we are committed to lifting up Native voices as foundational pillars of our work going forward. 

Thank you for your partnership.