U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai laid out the Biden administration’s vision of a reformed World Trade Organization this week in Geneva. She emphasized the need to reinvigorate negotiations, improve monitoring and upgrade the dispute settlement system, while ensuring a focus on working people and the environment.
In her own words: “The Biden–Harris administration believes that trade—and the WTO—can be a force for good that encourages a race to the top and addresses global challenges as they arise,” Ambassador Tai said in her first major statement on the future of the trade body, adding that “by working together and engaging differently, the WTO can be an organization that empowers workers, protects the environment and promotes equitable development.”
Need for reform: According to Ambassador Tai, efforts to reform the WTO should focus on three key pillars: bringing “vitality” back to the negotiations, improving the WTO monitoring function and reforming dispute settlement to “secure acceptable resolutions” and “provide confidence that the system is fair.”
Trade, health and IP: Ambassador Tai cited several trade and health proposals on which the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference could reach consensus later this month and noted that the United States is “working on a draft ministerial decision aimed at strengthening resiliency and preparedness through trade facilitation.”
- She also referred to ongoing discussions about a potential waiver of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights for COVID-related products, noting U.S. support for “text-based discussions” but that “[m]embers are still divided on this issue.”
On China: During a question-and-answer session with audience members, Ambassador Tai underscored that “we need a new way to engage and compete with China,” including bilateral and multilateral channels such as the WTO to “promote interests in our economy and to coexist in the world economy.”
The NAM says: “The NAM is encouraged by the remarks made by Ambassador Tai that reinforce manufacturers’ core WTO reform priorities, notably the need to deliver broad trade liberalization through new negotiations, modernize the WTO rulebook and improve enforcement tools and restore the dispute settlement function,” said NAM Vice President of International Economic Affairs Ken Monahan. Monahan added that “a fully working, revitalized and modernized WTO—with active participation by the United States—is vital to the continued growth of trade and the improvement of the global competitiveness of manufacturers in the United States.”
Monahan also underscored that “the NAM has pressed for practical, effective solutions on trade, health and intellectual property” and that “the divisive proposal for a TRIPS waiver for COVID-related products would be damaging for manufacturers,” as NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons told the Biden administration in September.