WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered remarks at the Center for American Progress (CAP), highlighting how the United States is taking a new approach to trade that lifts up workers at home and abroad and delivers inclusive economic opportunity to all.
Underscoring President Biden’s commitment to collaborating with allies and partners on shared goals, Ambassador Tai also shared how the United States is advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate priorities in our trade agenda.
Following her remarks, Ambassador Tai participated in a fireside chat with Patrick Gaspard, President and Chief Executive Officer of CAP.
Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Hello, everyone. Thank you, Alan, for your kind introduction.
Before I get started, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the horrific terrorist attacks that happened in Israel over the weekend.
As President Biden said on Saturday, and I quote:
“In this moment of tragedy, I want to say . . . that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back. This is also a terrible tragedy on a human level. It’s hurting innocent people—seeing the lives that have been broken by this, the families torn apart. It’s heart breaking.” End quote.
My thoughts are also with all those who have been impacted by this violence.
It is wonderful to be here with all of you today to share how we are delivering—through our trade agenda—on President Biden’s vision to build our economy from the middle out and the bottom up.
Patrick, you have long been a catalyst for change. You dedicated your career to lifting up workers and to raising the quality of life of communities around the world, including as U.S. ambassador to South Africa.
You transformed hope into tangible progress for so many people, and it is especially meaningful to share the stage with you shortly.
Change is what our Administration is about. Change for the better—for workers, for more communities across the country, and for our planet. We are beyond just talking. In our third year, we are transforming trade and delivering results.
When President Biden asked me to serve as his Trade Representative, he tasked me with putting workers at the center of our trade initiatives. That is because the President’s vision is an economy where, as he puts it, “everyone is cut in on the deal.”
As the President said at the United Nations last month, the United States has a duty:
“to join together with partners who share a common vision of the future of the world, where our children do not go hungry . . . where workers are empowered and our environment is protected, where entrepreneurs and innovators everywhere can access opportunity everywhere….”
Our Administration is using trade to make this future a reality. In a world of uncertainties and growing economic insecurity, the status quo is not good enough, and we are doing something about it.
At its core, our worker-centered trade policy is about people. The economy is more than numbers—it is people. So, our economic policy must work for our people.
Our work to implement and enforce the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement exemplifies this belief.
Trade tools are not trophies to be admired on shelves—they are living arrangements between dynamic economies and are meant to be used and put to the test. And that is exactly what we are doing. We are actively working with Mexico to advance labor cases through the USMCA’s Rapid Response Mechanism to make sure that the agreement helps drive a race to the top.
About 90% of the cases have been in the auto sector, and we are seeing real change and success for workers and independent unions in Mexico.
New collective bargaining agreements. Major salary increases. Safer working conditions.
This is having a real impact on working peoples’ lives, not only in Mexico but also here at home, because elevating labor standards in Mexico empowers U.S. workers by reducing unfair incentives to ship jobs overseas.
In our most recent actions, we are pushing further forward into the procedures laid out in this mechanism, as you saw in our request for a panel in the San Martin mine case.
We are committed to using every enforcement tool at our disposal to safeguard workers’ rights—and across the board.
In May, I was honored to invite UAW President Shawn Fain and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frederick Redmond to present and speak with my APEC trade minister colleagues at a first-ever labor discussion forum at the APEC trade ministerial in Detroit.
In order to understand why we are placing the interests and needs of our workers at the center of our trade policies, and in order to work with us to develop a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient economy in the Asia-Pacific region, it is critical for our partners to meet and hear directly from the leaders of our worker organizations, not just our company CEOs.
During our APEC host year, we are also seizing the opportunity to demonstrate the power of inclusion as a means to promote economic opportunity and competition.
This means lifting up women entrepreneurs and workers, helping small businesses grow, and unlocking economic opportunities for underrepresented parts of our populations.
And we are walking our talk—in San Francisco in November, APEC trade ministers will hear from and engage with Indigenous leaders from around the Asia-Pacific, so that their voices can help shape our work.
We are focused on empowering more workers and more communities to thrive in the new global economy—and that means trading smarter, more strategically, in pursuit of better outcomes and a more inclusive prosperity across our society.
Our work with India is a good example.
Since June, we have been able to achieve targeted market opportunity breakthroughs for American farmers and producers, including for turkey, blueberries, pecans, and pork exports to India.
This happened outside the usual trade agreement context that some see as the only kind of trade success that counts. But I assure you, our farmers and producers know that these wins count.
And this is also why our major trade initiative in Asia—the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF—is a not a traditional trade deal.
It is our vision for how countries can collaborate to deliver real opportunities for our people and collectively respond to the challenges we face today—without pitting our middle classes against each other.
We need a different approach. Not trickle-down economics in trade form, not maximum tariff liberalization that contributed to the hollowing out of our industrial heartland.
An approach that can lift all boats. One where economies collaborate on common-sense rules to prioritize resilience and help smaller businesses compete and thrive, without undercutting workers.
Let me give you some real-world examples.
Many small businesses face burdensome, paper-based customs procedures across the region that stymie exports and impose significant costs. So, we are working with IPEF partners to fix that, including through new automation and digital procedures that create uniformity and fairness and reduce costs.
Whether it’s the turkey farmers I met in North Carolina two weeks ago, or the artisans hand making craft chocolates in Vietnam, this will be a tangible benefit that will help their businesses and livelihoods.
Another example is transparency.
When regulatory changes happen without sufficient notice and chance for input, they create uncertainty that makes it hard for companies to do business—especially the smaller ones—and for stakeholders to prepare and adapt.
That is why we are working in the IPEF Trade Pillar to improve public access to information about regulatory actions and make sure stakeholders can review and comment on rules that affect them.
A third example is sustainable agriculture.
This can play a big part in our cooperative efforts to address the climate crisis.
We are working on rules to enable policy approaches that are grounded in science, evidence, and transparency, so that our farmers, ranchers, and producers can continue to lead in advancing climate smart approaches to agricultural production.
I am glad to be teaming up with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who has made the largest investment in climate smart agricultural research in U.S. history.
And our work on streamlining customs procedures and on transparency will especially be beneficial for smaller farmers, who do not have the same capacity as big agribusinesses to navigate complex rules.
We have been driving an ambitious negotiating schedule for the IPEF, and we have made significant progress just in the span of a year. This is a sign that our partners also recognize the need to do things differently, for their own resilience.
We are currently also hard at work with the European Union to fundamentally shift the paradigm for trade and production in steel and aluminum, from a race to the bottom to a race to the top.
That means working together to create incentives for addressing non-market excess capacity in those sectors and combatting the climate crisis. With no shortage of ambition, we are aiming to tackle both at the same time with a deal we are calling the Global Arrangement on Steel and Aluminum.
We owe it to our workers and industries on both sides of the Atlantic to curb the overflow of these products enabled by countries using unfair policies and practices.
This will help defend workers and their communities from the harmful effects they’ve suffered for too long. And, we want to incentivize cleaner production and trade in steel and aluminum, to provide a pathway toward a more sustainable industrial future.
In a nutshell, our goal is to incentivize fair competition and a race to the top for our planet.
We have been working hard on this over the last two years, and we are making progress that I fully expect to be able to share in the next weeks. I also want to emphasize the global nature of this endeavor, and not just because the word is in the name.
Our vision is for this tool to eventually be expanded to include other likeminded partners, and perhaps other sectors. Because, as it turns out, we’re all in this together.
When it comes to crafting a fairer and more equitable future for our people through trade policy we must work together with countries in every region and stay united in our cause.
Our partnership with Africa is an important part of this.
I will be heading to Johannesburg at the end of this month—with many colleagues from the Administration, Congress, labor and civil society, and the private sector—to cohost the 20th United States – Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, with South African Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, Ebrahim Patel.
The annual Forum was a key part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act when it was signed. And AGOA remains an important program for the United States to support Africa’s ongoing regional economic integration and to empower more people to reap the benefits of economic growth.
AGOA has served as a core tool to help utilize Africa’s incredible potential—to increase investment and to create new jobs across the continent.
AGOA’s Congressional authorization expires in two years. We are committed to working closely with Congress on a forward vision for AGOA that reflects changes on the continent and opportunities for improvements.
In terms of improvements, consider that utilization rates remain low. So, let’s discuss what changes might improve and raise those rates, particularly among smaller and less-developed countries in Africa.
In terms of changes on the continent, consider that, since AGOA was renewed in 2015, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area—or AfCFTA—has come into being, so our program to support African economic development should reflect this important milestone.
We recognize that a successful new trade paradigm must reimagine trade and development as a partnership and a more equitable two-way street.
When I traveled to Nairobi in July to discuss the U.S. – Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership among other things, I was reminded again how Africa’s vibrancy and potential are extraordinary and undeniable. The continent’s success is inextricably linked to ours—and we need to row together, for our people, for our future.
Last time my staff and I counted, we had logged more than 200,000 miles crisscrossing the globe, which now brings me back to our own hemisphere and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.
It’s not just USTR working day and night to write our new story on trade. The entire administration is so busy that we are pulling double duty—while I’m in Johannesburg for the AGOA forum, President Biden will be hosting Americas Partnership leaders in Washington to continue discussions on our shared prosperity.
The President believes trade can be a force for good, and so do I. The decisions we make today will directly affect the world our future generations will shape and lead. So it is on us—those of us doing this work now—to do trade in a new and better way.
To provide economic security for the American people. To build a brighter tomorrow for our collective resilience and prosperity. And to craft meaningful, durable change, one step at a time.
It is an honor to serve in an Administration, and work for a president, that fully embraces this vision and this challenge. I look forward to talking about these issues and more with Patrick shortly. Thank you.