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May 14, 2021

US Senate Finance Panel questions USTR Katherine Tai on trade policy

During the 13 May House Ways & Means Committee hearing on the Biden Administration's trade agenda with United States (US) Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai, members asked about the Administration's support for waiving intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines, enforcing labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), and prospects for trade agreements with the United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU), and in Asia. Members of both parties expressed confidence in USTR Tai, a former chief trade counsel for the Committee, and congratulated her for holding the position.

In an opening statement, Chairman Richard Neal said: "We must take every available opportunity to urge our trading partners to join our efforts to eradicate forced labor, combat climate change, and sustain institutions and practices that support open societies and fair markets. We also must reassert ourselves on the world stage, including at the WTO."

Ranking Member Kevin Brady said: "We need new trade agreements to promote our workers and sell our products, whether in the UK, Kenya, Japan, the EU, the Asia-Pacific, or elsewhere. It is the right time and we have the right U.S. trade representative in place. And we have the right bipartisan dynamics to move these agreements forward. The first step is to renew the strong partnership between Congress and the Administration on trade through Trade Promotion Authority."

In her prepared statement, USTR Tai said of last week's announcement on the IP waiver for COVID-19 vaccines that the US "will not let intellectual property rights get in the way of saving lives," and "we will pursue text-based negotiations at the WTO," adding that the US will also boost efforts to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution around the world. Tai said the worker-centered policy in Biden administration's trade agenda will foster "broad-based, equitable growth, increase innovation, and give workers a seat at the table." She also said that the President's trade agenda includes the goal of racial equity, and that trade policy must also help protect the environment and fight climate change.


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