Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the APEC Ministerial Meeting Session on Indigenous Peoples’ Perspective on Regional Trade

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, and welcome to San Francisco, everyone. It’s great to see all of you. And thank you so much, Chairman Sarris, for inspiring our discussion with your moving blessing of our gathering this morning.

I want to echo your acknowledgment that we are on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone who are the original inhabitants of the San Francisco Peninsula.

Thanks also to the distinguished representatives from Australia, Canada, and Aotearoa New Zealand, and to Chief Hoskin, for your responses. We are so honored to have you with us.

I want to also thank my fellow ministers from Australia, Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand for working with us to prepare for this event. Your counsel has been essential.

Chief Lynn Malerba, our panel moderator this morning, is an incredibly engaged interlocutor with our Indigenous communities in the United States, in her roles as Treasurer of the United States and as Chief of the Mohegan Tribe. Lynn, it’s an honor to have you here, and thank you for your huge contribution to this event.

As we begin our discussion, I want to underscore how significant this event is to the U.S. APEC host year, and why we have incorporated it as part of the overall program for the APEC Ministerial meeting.

Our economies are more than just numbers. They are made of people, so we need to make sure that our economies work for our people. Not only for those that know the ins and outs of trade policymaking, but for those that have been traditionally left out.

Not only must they have a seat at the table, their voices must help shape our work.

This is why, in the United States, we have made it a priority to hear directly from more people across our society. To meet people where they are—workers, students, small business owners, women entrepreneurs—and to hear their priorities and concerns.

Inclusion has been at the very core of what the United States, and USTR in particular, have worked to advance this year.

Many of you joined me at the first-ever minister-level Labor Dialogue during the MRT in Detroit. And today is another first, with this minister-level AMM Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples.

November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States. And I was reflecting on how our story on trade in this country begins with our Indigenous communities.

They 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 settlers. It was a sustaining, driving way of life.

So as we honor this rich history in this country, I invite my APEC colleagues to also contemplate ways we can craft policies that deliver real benefits to more people across our economies, especially Indigenous communities.

Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, we have sought to strengthen and deepen our engagement with tribal nations and all Indigenous partners in the United States.

Just a few weeks ago, I was honored to participate in another formal round of Tribal Consultations.

I always come away from these conversations with a deeper understanding of the interests of our Indigenous partners.

One example is on misappropriation of Indigenous goods in trade. I’ve been grateful that this issue has been brought to my attention, and my staff and I are now engaging with colleagues across the U.S. Government to explore tools for addressing this problem.

I’d 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. I know that a number of our panelists today have been very involved in this mechanism.

We’ve appreciated the outreach we’ve received from IPETCA partners on the United States becoming an observer to the Arrangement, and I’m happy to note that we have this question under active and positive review.

Today is an exciting opportunity for me—and I hope for all of my fellow ministers—to broaden our understanding of Indigenous perspectives on trade beyond our own individual economies. And my hope is that this Dialogue can remain a mainstay in APEC’s trade and investment work moving forward.

It’s now my privilege to turn to our moderator, Chief Malerba, to kick off the discussion with our distinguished panelists