U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will join President Biden on his trip to Brussels next week to engage in discussions to resolve the 16-year old Boeing/Airbus disputes, she said at an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations town hall, Wednesday.
“These talks will give us a chance, first and foremost, to champion the rights and interests of our workers in those industries, while also creating new standards to combat the harmful industrial policies of China and other countries that undermine our ability to compete,” she said. “From my conversations so far, I am optimistic that we will be successful.”
In her remarks, Tai also spoke about creating a “worker-centered” trade policy.
“We know that trade is essential to a functioning global economy,” Tai said in her remarks. “It is clear, however, that the past promises made to workers on trade were not met. Certain sectors of the economy have done well. But far too many communities and workers were left behind. The consequences for families when factories closed and jobs were sent overseas were real. And they were real for the workers who lost their jobs to unfairly traded imports, too. This created a trust gap with the public about free trade.”
Tai continued, “President Biden is leading us on a new path. He wants an economic policy, including a trade policy, that delivers shared prosperity for all Americans, not just profits for corporations. We want to make trade a force for good that encourages a race to the top.”
She outlined how the Biden administration plans to do this.
“The first step to achieving this goal is creating a more inclusive process. In order to understand how trade affects workers, we want to come meet with, listen to, and learn from them. By bringing workers from all backgrounds and experiences to the table, we will create inclusive trade policy that advances economic security and racial and gender equity. We want to lift up women, communities of color, and rural America – people that have been systematically excluded or overlooked.”
“Our goal is to improve worker representation in trade policy in the United States and in multilateral organizations,” she continued. “The WTO, for example, doesn’t adequately hear from workers, and we want to change that. We’ll keep asking for this in other international organizations, such as APEC and the OECD, too. We know that when workers have a seat at the table in their workplace, wages go up, retirement benefits go up, workplaces are safer, and discrimination and harassment get addressed. We want trade to deliver the same results.”
Tai used the USMCA agreement as a good example of what can happen when labor is prioritized.
“Because of our partnership, the USMCA now includes: the strongest labor and environmental standards in any agreement ever; a new rapid response mechanism that allows us to quickly take action at a specific factory where workers are being denied their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; and critical changes to the intellectual property provisions designed to increase access to affordable medicine for regular people.”
Tai also emphasized the importance of enforcement actions and how the USTR plans to apply the same principles at the World Trade Organization.
“If the WTO is to be relevant and a force for good, it must be revitalized and modernized. We must take bold steps to fix its negotiating function, commit to greater transparency, and reform the dispute settlement process.”