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U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai: Openness, inclusion and fairness essential at home and as principles in dealing with China

Resilience, inclusion and communication central in her remarks
May 6, 2023
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai speaking at USC on May 5, 2023.

Speaking at USC, Katherine Tai yesterday, the 19th U.S. Trade Representative described the U.S.-China relationship as "consequential, complex and competitive." She noted there are real challenges in the relationship, which has become quite tense. "The PRC’s growth and development over the last few decades have been phenomenal," Amb. Tai said, "but the impacts—especially the negative impacts on other economies, including ours—are having consequences that we cannot ignore." She called on us to "focus on the substance and filter out the noise, the easier it will be to define the problem" and especially not to let worries about Chinese government policies and practices affect how we feel about and treat the people of China or people of Asian ancestry in the United States.

Amb. Tai's address and her subsequent discussion with USC Marshall School of Business Dean Geoff Garrett and entertainment entrepreneur Jaeson Ma was part of Asian American Pacific Islander Month at USC. She discussed the mistreatment of Asian immigrants, including the 1871 lynching of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles, the incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II and the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982. She described the recent questioning of Congresswoman Judy Chu's patriotism by other members of Congress as "wrong and un-American" and condemned the increase in abuse directed at members of AAPI communities. 

To address these problems, Amb. Tai said, "We will continue to push and pull for one another, to fight for justice and equity, and to build a freer and fairer America. Where our grandmothers don’t have to walk to the grocery store in fear.  Where our daughters and nephews don’t have to worry about being bullied and beaten because of their skin color." Amb. Tai emphasized, "The engine of American greatness is that, for generations, America has opened its arms to the world—to people like ... my parents.  To come and put down roots.  To study, to invent, to cure, to clean, to cook, to build, to provide care."

The U.S. Trade Office, Amb. Tai said, has "a responsibility—a calling—to use trade as a force for good, to advocate for fairness and create real opportunities for all our people." She stressed that she and her colleagues were working to expand the range of voices helping make trade policy, to reach beyond large corporations to small businesses, workers and underrepresented groups. Trade can help advance development and improve lives, but Amb. Tai noted that inequality has risen here in the U.S. and globally, so officials have an obligation to ensure that policy puts people at the center.

In the discussion following her address, Amb. Tai expressed a willingness to meet with Chinese representatives to discuss some of the many points of friction in the current economic relationship. She last met with Wang Wentao 王文涛, China's Commerce Minister, in November 2022. A few days after her USC visit, reports appeared that she would again meet Minister Wang in Detroit, Michigan on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting at the end of May. Amb.

Jaeson Ma, Geoff Garrett and Katherine Tai at USC on May 5, 2023.