U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will emphasize in a speech on Thursday that the United States is focusing on protecting workers through trade policies and that it will seek to pressure trading partners to raise wages, allow collective bargaining, and end forced labor.
The speech, the first important policy speech of Ms. Tai, is expected to highlight the Biden government’s goal of re-empowering workers and minimizing the negative effects of globalization, which has encouraged companies to move jobs and factories abroad in search of cheaper labor and materials.
Less clear is how the administration will achieve the goals in practice.
“Our trade policy has long been shaped by people who are used to looking at the macro picture – large economic sectors,” Tai said in an interview before the speech, which she will deliver during an AFL. CIO City Hall. “We have lost sight of the impact of this policy, the real and direct impact it can have on ordinary people’s lives and their livelihoods.”
According to a copy of her prepared remarks, Mrs. Tai portrays government pressure as an attempt to redress decades of trade policies that put company profits above workers and help erode the power of employees in the United States.
” A worker-oriented trade policy means addressing the damage that American workers and industries have suffered as a result of competition with trading partners that does not allow workers to exercise their internationally recognized labor rights. “This includes standing up against the abuse of workers and the promotion and support of the rights that move us to dignified work and shared prosperity: the right to organize and to negotiate collectively.”
Ms Tai will stress that the United States is already enforcing the protection of workers in the new North American trade agreement and trying to curb forced labor in the fishing industry at the World Trade Organization.
The Biden government on Wednesday made its second request within a month for Mexico to see if workers at two separate car facilities denied the collective bargaining rights to which the provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement were agreed.
“These enforcement actions are important,” Ms Tai will say in her speech, noting that they ‘protect the rights of workers, especially those in low-wage industries who are vulnerable to exploitation.’
Last month, the administration submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization aimed at limiting ‘harmful subsidies to fishing activities related to the use of forced labor, such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.’
It remains to be seen how – or whether – the United States will effectively strive for stronger labor standards outside of North America. In the speech of Ms. Tai is not directly told how the government will try to encourage some of its biggest trading partners, such as China, to adapt trading practices.
Asked what the plans are for other continents, Ms Tai said: “In every direction where we have opportunities to formulate trade policy, we see opportunities to bring this worker – centered spirit to our work.”
As for China, she suggested that the aim was to work with other countries that have similar economic structures to the United States, and with allies to ‘place ourselves on a stronger competitive footing, to compete for the industries. of the future ‘.