USTR's Tai says unions to have 'substantive input' into Biden trade policies

·3 min read

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Labor unions will continue to have "substantive input" into the Biden administration's trade policies, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told the United Steelworkers on Wednesday, vowing a new approach to China's unfair trade and economic practices.

Tai said in remarks at the union's annual convention in Las Vegas that President Joe Biden's "worker-centered" trade and economic policies were producing results, with manufacturing jobs and industrial production rising.

Trade policy will no longer neglect the needs of workers and domestic investments such as last year's infrastructure act and the $430 billion climate, drugs and tax bill will create more job opportunities -- and demand for steel, Tai said.

"Worker-centered trade starts with workers at the table. But it's got to be more than that. You also need to be able to provide substantive input. And, most importantly, to see your impact on policy," Tai said.

Unions also will be a centerpiece of trade discussions with the European Union, Tai said, adding that USTR would also continue to press labor rights cases under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.

Labor is a key constituency for Biden, who has described himself as the most pro-labor president ever and who heavily relied on unions to power his Democratic Party primary and general election victories in 2020.

Tai's remarks did not specifically mention the Biden administration's deliberations on whether to tariffs on Chinese goods, a move that has been debated within the White House for months.

Sources have told Reuters that U.S. officials are now recalibrating their thinking on whether to some scrap tariffs or launch a new "Section 301" investigation, setting aside those options for now in the wake of China's unprecedented war games around Taiwan in response House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island.

The United Steelworkers and other unions have urged USTR to keep the tariffs on Chinese goods in place to help "level the playing field" for American workers and reduce U.S. reliance on Chinese suppliers.

Tai has argued in favor of keeping the tariffs as leverage as part of a strategy to press China for changes to its state driven economic policies.


In her remarks, Tai said China's "state supported industrial policies undercut the prosperity of Americans, suppressed labor rights, and weakened environmental standards."

She added that this has especially hurt U.S. steel production and employment and vowed to avoid a repeat for other industries by "using every tool at my disposal to hold China accountable."

"We need to take a new, holistic, and pragmatic approach," Tai said. "Years of dialogues and trade disputes have not led to meaningful reform. We're not sitting around waiting for China to change."

This includes by investing in American workers and infrastructure through initiatives like the $52.7 billion CHIPS Act to boost semiconductor production and research, she said, as well as working with U.S. allies to present a united front to Beijing. (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by David Gregorio)