WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered remarks at a quarterly meeting of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
In her remarks, Ambassador Tai underscored the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued commitment to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, including for those affected by the Maui wildfires. Ambassador Tai also emphasized the importance of the Commission’s work to pursue fairness, inclusion, and equity in the midst of ongoing violence and fragility around the world.
Ambassador Tai’s remarks as delivered are below:
Thank you so much Krystal. It is really wonderful to be with all of you again to see all of your faces and to get a chance to reconnect and catch up.
I believe this is the first time ever that USTR has hosted the public Commission meeting, so I wanted to welcome everyone!
It’s particularly poignant for me because this is I think our biggest conference room. It’s not our most beautiful conference room—we’ve only got two or three of them—but it is our biggest one.
I wanted to let you know—most of you know—I spent the earlier part of my career here at USTR, really cut my teeth here as a trade lawyer and a trade policy person here at USTR.
I will tell you that, in this room, we have celebrated Thanksgiving potlucks, we have hosted foreign delegations for negotiations, we have built and developed WTO cases here, and I really do feel like I am inviting you to my home and a place where I have grown up and is very special to me. I really wanted to extend my personal welcome to USTR. Much like this Commission, our agency is small—but mighty.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to join all of you in Honolulu in July, but I know that you had a productive meeting and a dynamic listening session during the Economic Summit.
It was particularly important for the Commission to have the first, in-person meeting outside of Washington, D.C. in the heart of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. And it’s important for our communities to have first-hand access to the whole-of-government work to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for our workers, entrepreneurs, and families.
The past few months have been difficult. But I also want to say let’s put the past few months in the context of the past few years.
For our communities, the past few years have been really challenging, and they have challenged us to step up to connect and coalesce and to learn from each other in ways that I think we haven’t had to in perhaps a very long time.
But the past few months have been particularly difficult, and I want to say that the Biden-Harris Administration will stand steadfastly with the residents of Hawaii throughout the long-term recovery after the fire. Our frontline agencies extended the deadlines for those seeking assistance, and last month, the President expanded Federal support.
We know that the climate crisis disproportionately affects different communities and disproportionately affects AA and NHPI communities, and I know that the loss of Native Hawaiian historical spaces, loved ones, homes, and livelihoods are incalculable. Especially as we’re celebrating Filipino American Heritage Month this month, we recognize the tremendous loss that Filipino Americans in Hawaii have suffered.
No one can be left behind, and we will be with the residents of Hawaii for as long as it takes, because we are a community of communities.
At the same time, we are facing fragility and violence around the world, and the work of this Commission is critical to ensuring that hate and violence are not tolerated anywhere at any time. Thank you, all of you for everything that you do and everything that you are.
I know that our work is cut out for us, but I also know that we will persevere. This is why I am honored to serve as Commission co-chair with Secretary Becerra. And thank you Erika, Krystal, and your teams for your tireless work and commitment. You are the glue that hold us together. Thank you for always leading by example.
The Commission’s work is truly making a difference in people’s lives, and I want you to know that.
It has been a priority of mine to leave the Washington bubble as much as possible, to meet our people where they are, from all walks of life, to hear directly from them on their hopes, their dreams, and their concerns.
And on a recent trip to Metro Atlanta, I witnessed the importance of the work that you are doing firsthand.
I was visiting a company’s facility with Congresswoman Lucy McBath, who represents one of the most diverse and most diverse and growing counties in all of the United States. And at the facility, the company representative shared with all of us that recently, in the past few years, they circulated a company-wide survey across their facilities, and were disappointed to see that they had very low response rates.
When they looked into it more, they realized that, in some of their facilities, up to 80% of their workers were Laotian or Vietnamese, with low English proficiency.
And they set about to thinking how they could tailor their processes as a company to the reality and the identities of their workers, and so, what they ended up doing was translating the two-page survey and recirculated it.
This time, the response rate increased significantly. Significantly. And when asked how much it cost for them to translate the survey, the company representative said it was nominal. It was like a $500 translation, and yet it was so critical to their ability to connect with their workforce and to become a better workplace and a more effective enterprise.
So, I wanted to let you know, as I was listening to that story, I thought, when I go out and when I say this is what the Commission is doing, these are the focuses of the initiative, and I talk about data disaggregation and language access, and I say they don’t sound like flashy issues, but they are so, so important to our ability to connect and to our ability as a government to do our jobs and to serve our communities.
I wanted to let you know that it is happening in the real world and that the work that you are doing is so incredibly important.
If you’re thoughtful about who your people are—and this is the lesson I’m taking—what their needs are, even small changes can transform your productivity and culture in a deeply meaningful way.
This obviously relates to our work as well.
This is already the seventh Commission meeting, and through each of the subcommittees, what may seem like marginal changes actually are having and will have a significant, lasting impact on people’s lives, and I know that work is hard, and I know that the times are hard. But let’s, among us, not lose sight of that impact.
Your deliberations and recommendations are so important to helping shape how our Administration can continue to partner successfully with our AA and NHPI communities. And I want to especially thank our three outgoing commissioners for their service, as they are rolling off the Commission at the end of this year, and this is our last Commission meeting together.
Dr. Amy Agbayani, Michelle Ka‘uhane, and Ai-jen Poo. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done on behalf of our communities. Thank you for everything I know you will continue to do on behalf of our communities even as you move off of the Commission. Your dedication has left an indelible mark. You will be missed, and we will try to do you proud.
We know that there’s more work to be done. And Kerry and I were just talking a little bit before we got started about, you know, you can never rest on your laurels because you know there is so much more to do. It is a fact, hate crimes are still happening. Inequities still persist—whether it’s related to economic opportunity, health, gender, disability, or language access.
But I am confident that the work we are doing here is setting us on the right path. To shine light on the issues that affect us. To craft practical solutions to real problems. To lift up the voices of underserved peoples. And to forge a tighter community that pushes and pulls for one another through good and especially through bad.
From President Biden and Vice President Harris on down, our Administration is with you all the way.
And let’s just take a look around us. We’re all different. Different upbringings, different expertise, different cultures. But that’s what makes us powerful and resilient. What we can’t do as individuals, we can more than accomplish as a collective. You all in this grouping bring so much hope to so many people, including me.
This is our final Commission meeting for the year 2023, but the work continues. It is a joy and honor to serve alongside you. Thank you again for everything you do. Thank you again for everything you do for our communities so that they know that they are seen, they are heard, and that they are important.
Now, it’s my pleasure to turn things over to my dear friend and our fearless leader, Erika Moritsugu, Deputy Assistant to the President, and Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison.