Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at 2023 Global Links Business Luncheon

PHOENIX – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered remarks at the 2023 Global Links Business Luncheon in Phoenix, Arizona. In her remarks, Ambassador Tai highlighted how the Biden-Harris Administration is investing in American competitiveness and using trade to promote a more resilient and prosperous future for workers and businesses, including through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.  Ambassador Tai also congratulated the recipients of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s 2023 Export Awards.

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

Thank you, Emilio, for that introduction.  It’s a pleasure to be here in this great city, and thank you to the Phoenix Sister Cities for inviting me to speak today. 

I learned that this beautiful resort opened almost a century ago—in 1929—and its origin story is interesting.  

Two brothers, Warren and Charles McArthur, outfitted a Dodge truck with extra seats and a supply car, calling it “The Wonderbus.”  

They used “The Wonderbus” to take people on tours around Arizona landmarks, before realizing that they wanted something bigger and better to attract tourism.  That’s when they set out to build the resort as we know it today.  

The McArthur brothers turned their “Wonderbus” into a “wonder resort”.

This story is a great example of how President Biden defines America to world leaders, with a single word—“possibilities.”  When we work together, when we invest in our great nation and in our future, there is nothing we cannot do.

That is exactly what our administration has been doing, since day one.  We are building our economy from the bottom up and the middle out, and empowering our working communities and businesses to compete and win on the world stage.

The President’s plan is working.  

We are creating good-paying jobs—including those that don’t require a college degree—with 12.6 million jobs created since President Biden took office.  

Unemployment is near a 50-year low—at 3.5%.  Wages are up from nine months ago, accounting for inflation.  

And more Americans are joining the workforce—the share of working age Americans in the labor force is at a 15-year high.

This is all a part of investing in America through historic legislation, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

For Arizona, that means $2.5 billion to invest in roads, bridges, public transit, ports, and airports.  That means over $500 million for clean water, and more than 347,000 households across the state now have access to affordable high-speed Internet.

That means lower energy costs for families and small businesses and more clean energy jobs.

That also means companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company investing $40 billion in Arizona to build a state-of-the-art factory, creating good-paying jobs and boosting our innovative capabilities.

Construction has already begun on a second factory in north Phoenix, which is expected to open in 2026.  And a number of other semiconductor-related companies have announced plans to expand or relocate to Arizona.

This is how we are laying the groundwork for a better and brighter future for all Americans—one of peace and prosperity, just like the mission of the Phoenix Sister Cities.

Trade is also an important part of this future.

For the better part of the past century, trade enabled massive increases in economic activity and historic reductions in poverty in some regions across the world.  

But we also know that some sectors of our economy did not reap the same benefits, and the traditional approach to trade is not built to effectively address today’s challenges—like dispersed and vulnerable supply chains and a worsening climate crisis.

The pandemic and Russia’s brutal, unjustified attack on Ukraine further exacerbated and exposed these blind spots.

These issues—and how we address them—are directly linked to our competitiveness and prosperity, not just today, but for generations to come.  

That is why this Administration is writing a new story on trade, one that tackles today’s challenges and seizes tomorrow’s opportunities—not just by ourselves, but together with allies and partners who share this vision.

For instance, in the Indo-Pacific, we are negotiating a brand-new type of initiative with thirteen other economies.  

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, is not just any trade deal—it is our positive economic vision for a critical region that is free and open, connected and prosperous, secure and resilient.

This region holds incredible potential for American exporters and businesses, so let me give you a few examples of how the IPEF could make it easier for them to thrive there.

We’re streamlining customs procedures so your products get to their destinations as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  That includes reducing red tape at the border and requiring new innovative border processes.

Another challenge is the lack of transparency for regulations.  Rules that affect your business can change overnight, without you knowing about it or having a chance to chime in.

We’re changing that—we’re working with our trading partners to provide clear, public notices when they propose new rules, and also provide adequate time and opportunity for all stakeholders to comment on them before they become final.

There are a number of barriers that often discourage smaller companies and entrepreneurs from participating in trade, especially through e-commerce.  So, we’re addressing that, too, by reducing formalities for express shipments and facilitating the return of goods across borders.

Our goal is to reduce roadblocks and provide certainty to make it easier for American workers and businesses to compete and win fairly in these markets.  

This approach is at the heart of our other initiatives, too—including our discussions with eleven other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and in our negotiations with Taiwan and Kenya.

To do my job correctly—for us to do trade the right way—I need to hear directly from you on your priorities.  Not just the big companies, but businesses of all sizes and workers of all backgrounds.

That is one of the reasons why I enjoy travelling through our country.  

As I meet people and tour shops and factories, I am reminded that our work at USTR has a real impact on people’s lives.  That’s why it is a special honor for me to be here today, as Mayor Gallego presents her Export Awards for this year.

Companies like Pinnacle Transplant Technologies, who we are honoring today as Exporter of the Year, do incredible work—delivering high-quality allograft implants to save countless lives all over the world.  

People like Dr. Stephen Gonzales from Maricopa County Community College—our Export Champion of the Year—have devoted their careers to ensuring that the next generation is equipped with the skills to drive tomorrow’s innovation.

And public servants like Jim Pipper from the Arizona Small Business Administration—our Export Service Provider of the Year—have dedicated themselves to connecting veteran entrepreneurs with federal, state, and local programs to help develop their businesses.

I want to thank our awardees for their commitment and dedication.  You are at the forefront of making sure that more Americans benefit from trade, and I remain committed to working with you—and others in the room—to finish the job we started.

We want more Americans across our economy to thrive through trade—not just the big players, but also our smaller businesses; our suppliers; our farmers, ranchers, producers; our individual entrepreneurs, and our workers.  

Because we are that much stronger when we grow together.  

Much like the Sister City programs, trade is a partnership—not only a partnership among countries, but also a partnership with all of you.

Let’s work together to write our new story on trade.  

I’ve heard that Irving Berlin wrote the song “White Christmas” while, ironically, sunbathing next to one of the pools at this resort.

Unlike that classic, we’re not just dreaming of a fairer and more prosperous tomorrow for all our people—it’s a reality that we are shaping right now.

Progress is not linear.  But together, we can pave a path that will make us more resilient and more competitive for years to come.  I look forward to writing that next chapter with all of you.

Thank you.