Remarks by Ambassador Tai at Press Conference on Presidential Memorandum on Advancing Worker Empowerment, Rights, and High Labor Standards Globally

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Rudy.  Hello everyone.  Thank you for joining us today.

Our economy is more than just numbers.  It is made of people, workers, and the communities they live in and support.  So, our economic policies must work for them.  To empower them.  To equip them to succeed.  Not just today, but also for future generations.

This Presidential Memorandum is a core part of our administration’s broader vision to do just that.  To build our economy from the middle out and the bottom up, and to ensure that our trade policies foster the same types of worker empowerment among our partners and allies.  

It can be too easy to talk about worker empowerment in a vacuum.  But we must remember that this has real impacts on real people. 

The workers that power our factories, teach our children, make our clothes, and care for our sick. Only when we put them at the heart of what we do can we truly use our policies as a force for good.

This Memorandum is our way of saying that we, the United States, see workers, both here and abroad.  That we understand that, in an interconnected economy, the rights of workers around the world impact workers in the United States too.  That we stand with workers.  And that we are fighting for them and with them.

This is our way of crafting a world where dignity is not negotiated for but is an unalienable right.  Where fairness is not a cost of doing business but is the only way to do business.  Where hope is not a distant abstraction but a present reality.

That is why our new story on trade puts workers and their rights at the center, and why we do the same throughout our foreign policy under the Memorandum.

We are enforcing existing trade rules, including under the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement.  We have used the labor enforcement mechanism under the USMCA more than a dozen times, and it is bringing real change to workers and their families in Mexico.  

Tens of thousands of workers have voted for independent unions and approved new collective bargaining agreements.  Hundreds of workers who were wrongfully dismissed for lawful union activities have been reinstated with backpay.  And thousands received significant pay increases and improvements to their working conditions.  

Real change, affecting real people and their livelihoods, through a trade agreement.  We are flipping the narrative on its head and driving a race to the top.

And we are embedding our focus on benefiting workers in our new trade initiatives, developing and negotiating the highest labor standard trade agreement texts ever developed, and not settling for watered down results that prioritize more trade over worker-centered trade.

We are teaming up with old friends like the European Union, with whom we have a vibrant Trade and Labor Dialogue to elevate the voices of workers on both sides of the Atlantic, and bring transatlantic and global trade and labor issues to the fore.

We are defending workers’ rights and combatting forced labor at every level of the supply chain, for example, by ensuring that Canada and Mexico employ trade and customs tools to combat forced labor in their supply chains and working with close allies like Japan to launch a task force to address forced labor.

We are also working within the World Trade Organization to revamp the entity so that it can take workers’ interests into account.

The common thread through all of this is our commitment to bring workers’ voices to the decision-making table.  To craft trade policies with and for workers.  To meet them and their communities where they are, so that their priorities help shape our policies.

I am thinking of Steve Dawes and his team in Flint, Michigan, for UAW Local 598.  Jon Holden and the Machinists in Washington State.  Anthony Alfano and others that are part of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

And I am thinking of Annie Enrique-Geron of the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation in the Philippines.  And Imelda Jimenez of Los Mineros in Mexico.

I am making a point to meeting with union leaders and workers during my foreign travel.  To let our trading partners know that there is no more pitting our workers against one another.  To further our collaboration to build and to strengthen our working communities and middle classes together.

To get there, our trading partners need to meet and hear directly from the leaders of our worker organizations, not just our company CEOs.

That is why, in May, I was honored to invite UAW President Shawn Fain and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frederick Redmond to speak with my Asia-Pacific trade minister colleagues at a first-ever labor discussion forum during APEC.

And that is also why I was excited to participate in a thoughtful discussion with African labor leaders during the AGOA Forum in Johannesburg earlier this month.  

It is about building a community, a coalition of people who care enough to act, and today is a reminder that President Biden is leading us in the right direction.

Take a look around you, around this room.  Workers like our steelworkers have built the literal backbone of this building.  And our nation was built on their back—so it is only fitting that we have their back.

This Memorandum brings together the power of the U.S. government to use our trade and international policy tools for the better.  To take meaningful steps forward with the working people that make up the core of our societies.  

I look forward to working with Secretary Blinken, Secretary Su, and other colleagues in the months ahead.

Now, I have the privilege of introducing my good friend and colleague, Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.