Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on the Biden Administration’s 2022 Trade Policy Agenda
(As prepared for delivery)
Today, we have the privilege to once again welcome back to the Committee, Ambassador Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative. Ambassador Tai, as I’ve said before, your prior work on this committee positions you to understand – better than most – the importance of U.S. trade policy in supporting American workers, families, and businesses.
It has been slightly over a year since you were confirmed as the United States Trade Representative—the President’s top trade advisor and our nation’s lead trade negotiator. In only your short time as USTR, the Biden Administration has delivered several significant wins for the American people. For instance, under your leadership, the United States resolved the long-standing Boeing-Airbus trade dispute. I commend you for concluding one of the longest trade disputes in U.S. history in a manner that delivers for American workers and businesses. Your resolution of the dispute created an opportunity for the United States and the European Union to work cooperatively to confront China’s non-market practices in the aerospace sector and beyond.
During your first year, you also worked with our allies to counter global steel and aluminum overcapacity. In doing so, you resolved the Section 232 tariffs with the EU, the United Kingdom, and Japan to help ensure that American workers are competing on a level playing field.
And under your leadership, the United States prevailed in the first dispute settlement panel proceeding brought under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement related to Canada dairy, and successfully concluded two cases under the USMCA’s Rapid Response Labor Mechanism over the denial of labor rights in Mexico. Throughout House Democrats’ work to improve the USMCA, we knew that strong enforcement mechanisms would be key to the deal’s success.
As you know well, Ambassador Tai, House Democrats fought hard to establish a new structure for aggressive enforcement of the USMCA and to provide the necessary funding to bring strong enforcement actions. I am very proud of the new standards that we established in the agreement. Trade agreements only succeed if they are enforced, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure aggressive enforcement of the USMCA that supports workers at home and abroad.
While I don’t have time right now to list all of your successes for the Biden Administration as USTR, I want to commend you for relaunching the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum, which had not met at the Ministerial level in five years, as well as the U.S. – Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework dialogue. Our trade relationships with India and Taiwan are important and require high-level and regular engagement.
Now with respect to urgent challenges, Russia continues its horrific, unprovoked war on the Ukrainian people. The House recently passed a ban on Russian energy imports and voted to suspend normal trade relations with Russia to hold Putin accountable and inflict substantial economic pressure on his regime. Ambassador Tai, I strongly encourage you to work with our partners and allies, urging them to take similar steps to further isolate Putin from the rest of the world. I thank Ranking Member Brady for his partnership on these matters, and I remain committed to pursuing any measure necessary to hold Putin accountable.
As we work with our allies to restore peace in Europe, we cannot miss the opportunity to explore new trade arrangements with like-minded countries. I am especially supportive of deepening trade ties with European and African countries. The events in Ukraine demonstrate the need to forge closer economic ties with Europe to help improve global supply chain resiliency. A new U.S.-European trade arrangement will only enhance our ability to moderate Russia’s aggression and pursuit of political dominance in the region.
We must also look to strengthening ties with Africa. Last week this committee sent a bipartisan staff delegation to Kenya, which was the very first committee delegation trip of the 117th Congress. For decades, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been the bedrock of our Africa trade agenda. However, unilateral preferences, in their current form, can only take a country so far in its economic development.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of hosting President Kenyatta of Kenya to discuss deepening economic ties, and Kenya has shown a willingness to embark on free trade agreement negotiations with the United States, and we should embrace it. We must prioritize trade with Africa and a comprehensive free trade agreement with Kenya that includes market access provisions is a necessary component.
As you well know, Democrats on this Committee are actively working to create policies that are inclusive, equitable, and responsive to the changing dynamics of the global economy. I am committed to putting forward more informed solutions to correct inequities and to ensure that all Americans and segments of our economy benefit from trade opportunities.
Done right, trade can be a powerful driver for good-paying, quality jobs, and a thriving economy. We must ensure, however, that our trade policies promote human rights, high labor standards, and strong environmental protections.
I am deeply troubled by actions coming from China. China’s use of forced labor in Xinjiang, blatant steps to suppress democratic institutions, and practices in Hong Kong, alarming threats of invasion in Taiwan, and pervasive unfair trading practices require immediate attention from us.
We must be unwavering in our condemnation of these actions, use every tool available to us, and create new tools to confront China’s destructive practices. In this regard, the America COMPETES Act of 2022 is the boldest, best option we have to stand up to China’s harmful actions and support American workers.
But we must also work with our allies to address the challenges we face with China. Rebuilding trust and strengthening our alliances with Europe, Asia, Africa, and our neighbors in the Americas will be key to our success.
Today members of this committee will hear from you directly about the Administration’s vision for U.S. trade policy. And, equally important, this is an opportunity for you to hear from us about our priorities. This conversation is a building block for the requisite partnership between Congress and the Administration to create equitable and enduring trade policies.