Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders Economic Summit in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered remarks at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) Economic Summit at Philadelphia City Hall.

The summit is the first in a series of regional economic summits to connect Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) community members directly with federal leaders and resources.  The series builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to improve access to federal contracts and grants and comes on the heels of the release of the Administration’s first-ever national strategy to advance equity and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities, which outlines agency commitments to strengthen capacity building over the next two years.

The series is being held in collaboration with the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, the National Asian / Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship, and local officials.

In her remarks, Ambassador Tai emphasized the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to stand with AA and NHPI communities in the wake of the tragic shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California. Ambassador Tai also highlighted how the Administration is fighting for equity, justice, and economic empowerment, including through the American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and trade polices that take steps forward for all Americans.

Ambassador Tai’s remarks as delivered are below:

Administrator Guzman, thank you so much for your presentation and those very kind words.  I just wanted to let you know, all of you, I’m delighted to be here.  Thank you, Krystal, Chiling, Mr. Mayor for hosting us in this incredible venue, in your wonderful, historic city. 

And Administrator Guzman is one of the smartest, hardest working members of our Cabinet, and also one of my closest and dearest friends.  We’ve been talking about doing something together for a long time now.  This is the first time we’ve actually done an event together, and I think it’s incredibly fitting that it is here that we’re coming together representing the Biden-Harris Administration, but showing the commitment that we have to economic opportunity, to vitality, to building this economy from the bottom up and the middle out. 

That means it’s all about all of us.  Growing the economy like a tree; growing it up from all of you.

It’s great to be here in person.  This economic summit is the first of a series of gatherings that we plan to have throughout the year, to advance economic security and equity for Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. 

I also want to give a shout out to the four members of our Commission who are here today and part of the larger group.  Thank you for your service and your dedication; your great advice to the President, to the White House Initiative. 

But also to acknowledge that what we’re doing here today and the series we are putting together is a result directly of a recommendation that came from Commissioners to make sure that all of our work doesn’t just happen in Washington, that we are living our values, and when we’re thinking about our economy, that we are doing more than just thinking and talking about it – we are actually coming out into it, meeting all of you, where you live and work, raise your families, and generate the opportunities that are so important to you and to all of us here at home and around the world.

We scheduled the first one of these meetings to coincide with Lunar New Year, which is always, like birthdays, something that is important for us to take time out to mark and to celebrate.  We’ve made it around the sun one more time, or I guess it’s Lunar, so the moon has moved – the earth and the moon have moved around each other one more time.  And it’s a time filled with hope and joy and family and friends. 

It is also important to acknowledge that this year, on Saturday night, what was a celebration of the peace, prosperity, hope that we associate so strongly and always with the Lunar New Year also became a horrific tragedy.  Eleven people were lost, nine were wounded Saturday night when a gunman opened fire in a dance studio in Monterey Park, California. 

Just two days later, on Monday, a gunman killed seven farmworkers in Half Moon Bay, California.

This type of senseless violence has become a plague in America.  Every massacre like this tears at the very soul of our nation.  And when it hits your community, our community, I think it tears at you just that much harder.

These types of events, I also want to acknowledge, affect the economic vitality of our nation as well, and the investment climate.  It is also a public health crisis, so on so many levels, it is something that we all need to really grapple with, think about, grieve for, but most importantly, come together in events like this, through efforts like the Initiative, like these summits, to overcome, and to address.

We have experienced so many mass shootings that some may be tempted to cope by numbing themselves to these types of tragedies.  But we cannot afford to do that.  These victims are moms and dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors.  They are workers, business owners – small business owners.

We grieve together this week with the people of Monterey Park, with the families of all those affected, and with AA and NHPI communities everywhere.  As President Biden has said, our administration will continue to do everything we can to provide support.

In the bigger picture, we also continue to fight for equity, justice, and economic empowerment for all of our communities.

We’ve taken some very important steps so far.  We provided direct relief to communities that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic through the American Rescue Plan, as you heard Administrator Guzman talk about.  So much of her work and the work of SBA has been about that.  We have signed the historic COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law, and provided expanded access for communities with limited English proficiency.

But as tragedies like these recent shootings in California show, we know there is more work to be done.  And as a continuation of this Administration’s commitment, the President also reestablished the White House Initiative and the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

It has been, for me, a tremendous honor to co-chair both of these initiatives with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Through what we call WHIAANHPI’s coordination – the Initiative’s coordination – of dedicated public servants throughout the federal government, we’ve been working hard to hear directly from AA and NHPI communities on the challenges that they are facing and to craft inclusive policies to address these challenges.

This led to our public release of a White House national strategy to advance equity, opportunity, and justice for our communities, along with action plans from thirty-two federal agencies that detail specific commitments over the next two years.

Today’s summit is a part of this Administration’s resolve to deliver real results to our people and businesses – by connecting you with federal resources, improving access to capital, and fostering that collaboration across sectors and communities.

For USTR, this means bringing more people to the table and incorporating their voices, especially those who have been historically underrepresented or forgotten in trade policymaking. 

I’ve made it a point to travel across the United States, to meet with people and to directly hear from them, including our AA and NHPI communities.  These stories of resilience and ingenuity inspire me and underscore the human aspect of my work as the Trade Representative for the United States.

We’re also working hard to better understand how trade has affected our communities, so we asked the independent U.S. International Trade Commission to study the distributional effects of trade. 

We know that the narrative is that trade has increased prosperity here at home and around the world.  The question that we haven’t asked, though, is where has that prosperity gone, where has it been captured, and where is the prosperity still being waited for. 

And this is all in line with the President’s vision again of that economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out.  When there is prosperity created, we need to make sure that all have a chance to participate and benefit.  The ITC’s findings show that we have a lot more work to do, and we are just getting started to make trade work for more Americans.

That’s important because we know that we are stronger when we travel forward, together.

Violence like the Monterey Park shooting should continue to rattle us and activate us to continue to push and pull for one another, to fight for justice and economic equity, and to build a society that is freer and fairer and safer – for all Americans.

As you heard earlier, all of my colleagues here with me today share this sentiment.  We are dedicated to working work with you to bring lasting change – to bring more people in and to further perfect our Union.

Together, we can demonstrate what it looks like to build a human-centered, people-driven economy.  I hope this summit does its magic in serving as a catalyst for all of you and all of us.

Thank you so much, and I’m going to turn this back to Krystal.