WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today attended the Wilson Center’s “USMCA at One” virtual event to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Ambassador Tai joined Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Tatiana Clouthier and Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng for the conversation.
Below are Ambassador Tai’s opening remarks:
Good afternoon. Thank you, Ambassador Green, for that kind introduction. And thank you to the Wilson Center for hosting today’s event. It is wonderful to join Secretary Clouthier and Minister Ng as well. I have enjoyed getting to know you in our early conversations.
It has been a busy month for the Biden-Harris Administration on the world stage. At the beginning of the month, Vice President Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico, and a few weeks ago I joined President Biden in Brussels – where we highlighted the importance of the transatlantic relationship.
And tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the entry-into-force of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. This important milestone offers us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of our partnership and commit to advancing a positive economic agenda that lifts up workers and communities in all of our countries.
I believe that USMCA provides us with a framework to advance that agenda.
For years, there was broad consensus that the NAFTA needed to be updated and remedied to meet the needs of the 21st century and correct for flaws and breakdowns in the agreement that developed over time. That view was shared by the business community, labor unions, and Members of Congress from both parties.
The USMCA as originally negotiated made some important strides towards achieving the goals of updating and remedying the NAFTA, but still fell short of the standards required to win Congressional support. Only with close partnership with businesses and labor organizations, and after a most unlikely “collaboration” between congressional Democrats and the Trump Administration, did the re-negotiated USMCA emerge as a better deal for workers and a new model for trade agreements able to secure a broad base of support.
The USMCA was approved by the U.S. Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities and was endorsed by groups ranging from the AFL-CIO to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the commitment of our Mexican and Canadian partners. The process and the final product demonstrated that thoughtful engagement and an openness to creative solutions can lead to better policy.
The USMCA now includes:
- The strongest labor and environmental standards in any agreement ever;
- A new labor-specific enforcement mechanism; and
- Critical changes to intellectual property provisions designed to increase access to affordable medicine for regular people.
The USMCA also allows us to revisit parts of the agreement to ensure that it remains relevant as the economy and our world evolves.
We should also celebrate the USMCA because of what it represents: a renewed commitment by our three countries to pursue negotiations that raise standards and create a race to the top.
As President Biden stated at the recent G7 leaders meeting, we will always be more successful if we partner with our allies. Collaboration with Mexico and Canada helps us confront today’s challenges and prepare for the challenges we will face in the future. Most importantly, the trust and the relationships that we built in renewing the terms of this agreement will help us promote the competitiveness of North America and respond to the policies of non-market economies that undercut our businesses and our workers.
A good next step in this increased cooperation can be on the issue of forced labor. The USMCA includes a strong obligation to prohibit the importation of goods produced with forced labor. Working together to address this critical economic and moral issue would send a powerful message to the world.
While today we are celebrating what we have accomplished with this new agreement, we must also acknowledge that there is more work to do. By continuing to work together, we can build a more competitive and resilient partnership that delivers shared prosperity across the region.