Trade Rep Designee Says Cooperation, Bipartisanship Key to Competing with China

January 12, 2021 by Dan McCue
Katherine Tai

WASHINGTON – Katherine Tai, President-elect Joe Biden’s designee to be the next U.S. trade representative, told a virtual gathering of trade professionals Tuesday that if the U.S. is going to successfully compete against China on the world stage, it’s going to take a renewed sense of mutual goals and cooperation.

“We face stiffening competition from a growing and ambitious China,” she told attendees of the National Foreign Trade Council Foundation conference.

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

In light of this, “we will only succeed if we work together,” she added.

Tai said 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.”

Tai, who is currently chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, went on to talk about the U.S., Mexico and Canada trade agreement, which she had a hand in creating and which she called one of outgoing President Trump’s significant accomplishments.

“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,” she said.

“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,” she said. 

“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,” she added.

Though she admitted that the world “feels like a more complicated and a more fragile place today than it has at any point in my lifetime,” she takes heart in the fact the nation and its people “confront substantial challenges in navigating and maintaining our values and our place in the world.”

“It is going to be a lot of hard work. But I promise you, it will be worth it,” she added.

Touching briefly on the subject of COVID-19, Tai said she wouldn’t 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. 

“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,” she said.

“What we have before us is an opportunity … and a mandate to build back better” she assured the convention attendees. 

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

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