The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative earlier this week released its Strategic Plan for the next four years in tandem with President Biden’s 2022 Trade Policy Agenda and 2021 Annual Report to Congress detailing USTR’s work to implement the administration’s trade priorities and advance its “worker-centered” trade policy.
“USTR’s Strategic Plan continues the Biden-Harris Administration’s unprecedented commitment towards advancing equity for historically overlooked and marginalized communities through our trade agenda,” USTR Katherine Tai said in a statement. “As we implement this plan, we will work with Congress and key stakeholders to promote inclusive and durable trade policies that benefit all workers and communities. I look forward to continuing this work and am eager to make this Strategic Plan a reality.”
The USTR’s FY 2022–2026 Strategic Plan includes six key goals:
- Open foreign markets and combat unfair trade;
- fully enforce U.S. trade laws, monitor compliance with agreements and use all tools to hold other countries accountable;
- develop and implement innovative policies to advance the president’s trade agenda; develop equitable trade policy though inclusive processes;
- effectively communicate the president’s trade agenda;
- and achieve organizational excellence as a model employer.
All but one of the objectives align closely with those already established in the USTR’s last strategic plan, with that addressing issues of inclusivity being a new addition.
“In ensuring that U.S. trade strategy and policy reflect the perspectives of all Americans, USTR will use trade tools, data assessments, and innovative engagement strategies to advance racial and gender equity, consider the distributional effects of trade, and support underserved and marginalized communities as part of the mission of all federal government agencies and offices,” the plan states.
Trade Agenda Highlights
Premised on the belief that “trade can—and should—be a force for good” and “a new approach to trade policy that empowers workers, defends their rights, and stops the global race-to-the-bottom,” the administration’s 2022 Trade Policy Agenda is part of what the USTR says is “a broader agenda of fair competition to ensure that workers are competing on the basis of skills and creativity, not exploitative cost advantages.”
This is consistent with President Joe Biden’s previously stated aim to “pursue new rules of global trade and economic growth that strive to level the playing field so that it’s not artificially tipped in favor of any one country at the expense of others, and every nation has a right and the opportunity to compete fairly.”
In this regard, the USTR states that China “has uniquely distorted global trade through its economic policies and practices, causing harm to U.S. production, investment, and even consumption.”
“Lack of protections for workers, a weak environmental regime, and anticompetitive subsidies are the hallmarks of China’s artificial comparative advantage. It is an advantage that puts others out of business and violates any notion of fair competition,” according to the USTR.
For this reason, the administration says it is “realigning” U.S. trade policies towards China “to defend the interests of America’s workers and businesses to strengthen our middle-class, create shared sustainable growth, and spur resilient climate action.
“We are clear-eyed about China’s doubling down on its harmful trade and economic abuses. We are also mindful that rash response measures can create vulnerabilities of their own,” the report states.
The “new, holistic, and pragmatic approach” involves “groundbreaking domestic investments enacted through the President’s Build Back Better agenda, which allow the United States to engage and compete with China from a position of strength.”
To counter China’s trade distorting behaviors, USTR says it is both “raising our concerns directly with China and working with our partners and allies to address shared challenges” and is “also considering all existing tools—and will potentially seek new ones as needed—to combat the harms of China’s state-led, non-market practices.”
Other key elements of the agenda include:
- Standing up for Workers’ Rights
- Accelerating Decarbonization and Promoting Sustainable Environmental
- Supporting U.S. Agriculture
- Bolstering Supply Chain Resiliency
- Combatting the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Engaging with Key Trading Partners and Multilateral Institutions
- Promoting Confidence in Trade Policy Through Enforcement
- Broad Engagement with Stakeholders to Facilitate Inclusive, Durable Trade Policy
and Promote Equity