Date: Thursday, January 14, 2021
Source: Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—President-elect Joe Biden’s trade policy will focus on helping American workers by ensuring trade agreements protect and enhance U.S. jobs—and not just ensure low prices of imported goods for consumers, his nominee for the top trade-policy job said Tuesday.
Katherine Tai, in her first speech since Mr. Biden nominated her for U.S. Trade Representative, said the new administration’s policy priorities also include confronting China over its trade practices and enforcing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement signed by President Trump last year with bipartisan support.
“The president-elect’s vision is to implement a worker-centered trade policy,” Ms. Tai said in a video-streamed speech to the National Foreign Trade Council, a business-advocacy group. “What it 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.”
The emphasis on protecting U.S. jobs was a guiding principle of the Trump administration’s trade policy, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Monday, in which he credited Ms. Tai for helping win Democratic support for the USMCA, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Ms. Tai has spent much of her career in the government, first as a lawyer for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, then as a congressional staff member. Most recently, she was chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee.
Trade-policy experts say the USMCA serves as a model for the Biden administration’s trade policy. It aims to create a more level playing field for U.S. workers by encouraging more domestic vehicle production, while imposing tougher rules on protecting the environment and worker rights.
Ms. Tai played a key role in negotiations between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration, leading to her ascent from a congressional staffer to a nominee for the country’s chief trade ambassador with support from labor unions and business lobbies alike. If approved by the Senate, she would be the first woman of color to lead the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
“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,” Ms. Tai said in her speech Tuesday.
She added that the challenge now is to make sure the agreement lives up to its promises and potential through enforcement actions and some course correction.
A fluent Mandarin speaker, Ms. Tai was a top lawyer with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office on China issues between 2007 and 2014, litigating Washington’s disputes against China at the World Trade Organization.
Ms. Tai said the U.S. faces stiffening competition from China, “whose economy is directed by central planners, who are not subject to the pressures of political pluralism, democratic elections, popular opinion.” She has said in the past that Beijing needs to be confronted strongly and strategically.
In her short speech, she didn’t discuss the U.S.’s other trading partners, except for a brief mention of working with allies. Mr. Biden has said he didn’t plan to enter new trade agreements until he addresses key domestic issues.