Katherine Tai

Katherine Tai USTR-Designate Keynote Speech, National Foreign Trade Council Foundation Virtual Conference and Awards Ceremony

Keynote Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by USTR-designate Katherine Tai at the National Foreign Trade Council Foundation Virtual Conference and Awards Ceremony

Good morning. I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak with you today, on the eve of a new U.S. administration, to share my, and the President-elect’s vision for the future of U.S. trade policy.

The challenges we currently face are unprecedented.

And I would not fault anyone who may be feeling exhausted, anxious, or even despair at this moment. As a nation, we have experienced over the past several years substantial drama and discord.

In the past year, we have grappled with the setbacks, the isolation, and the devastating loss that have accompanied a global pandemic, and the ensuing economic crisis. Just last week, a violent mob assaulted our democracy at the U.S. Capitol.

And yet, I remain hopeful, because of the strength of America’s character, and the resolve of the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to roll up our sleeves to do the hard work of governing, to bring back U.S. leadership to the world stage, and to revive: respect, process, and responsibility
to the functions of our government.

President-elect Joe Biden and I share a commitment to pursuing trade policies that support and benefit American workers, that combat the threat of climate change, that fuel American innovation and increase America’s competitiveness.

What we have before us is an opportunity and a mandate to Build Back Better –

We will use trade, in coordination with both international and domestic economic tools – to create a more inclusive prosperity for America and for Americans.

I have spent my entire career fighting for American workers and families, and I am honored to have the opportunity to return to USTR at such a crucial moment for our country.

The President-Elect’s vision is to implement a worker-centered trade policy.

What this means in practice is that U.S. trade policy must benefit regular Americans, communities, and workers. And that starts with recognizing that people are not just consumers — they are also workers, and wage earners.

Just as I have learned from many of you about supply chains in my years working in trade policy: Users are also producers; one company’s downstream customer is another’s upstream supplier.

Americans don’t just benefit from lower prices and greater selection in shops and markets.

Americans also benefit from having good jobs, with good wages.

Americans are parents, children, sisters, and brothers.

Americans benefit when they can provide for their loved ones and meaningfully contribute to their communities, so that the next generation has access to opportunities and resources that are brighter and more plentiful.

As tough as they have been, the past several years have not been without some significant accomplishments. Chief among them has been successfully renewing and remediating a trade agreement that knits together the economies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I am proud to have been a part of that effort.

As a replacement for a 25-year-old trade agreement that started the erosion of U.S. political support for trade, the USMCA is notable for incorporating groundbreaking labor and environmental provisions, including enforcement mechanisms that address longstanding wounds and grievances suffered by regular working people.

This was one of the few bipartisan legislative accomplishments in recent years. It was made possible in partnership with the business, labor, and civil society communities.

The challenge going forward is to make sure that we continue to tend to this agreement; to nurture what is working, and to correct course when parties falter and stray from old and new commitments.

In all candor, the world feels like a more complicated and a more fragile place today than it has at any point in my lifetime.

Our nation and our people confront substantial challenges in navigating and maintaining our values and our place in the world.

In the international arena, we face stiffening competition from a growing and ambitious China.

A China whose economy is directed by central planners who are not subject to the pressures of political pluralism, democratic elections, or popular opinion.

Whether it is contending with the challenges of China or making sure the USMCA lives up to its promise and potential, we will only succeed if we work together.

That means the administration working with Congress. Democrats and Republicans working together. Labor with capital, entrepreneurs with the keepers and defenders of our natural resources. Stakeholders across the entire spectrum of the U.S. economy and polity. The United States working with its allies.

It is going to be a lot of hard work. But I promise you, it will be worth it. And if confirmed, I will be a tireless advocate for the country and I will pursue trade policies that place the humanity and dignity of every American — and of all people — at the heart of our approach.

The hard work will be worth it because as Americans, we owe it to ourselves, each other, and our future.

Thank you very much. I look forward to doing the hard work hand in hand with all of you

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