On March 30, 2022, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai appeared before the House Ways & Means Committee to discuss President Joseph Biden’s 2022 trade agenda. In Ambassador Tai’s written testimony, she primarily focused on the U.S.-China trade relationship. Ambassador Tai highlighted ongoing talks with China over trade distortions and imbalances, including China’s failure to fulfill its purchase commitments detailed in the “Phase One Agreement” and its continuing state-centered and non-market practices. In these discussions, it became clear, Ambassador Tai stated, that China will only comply with its trade obligations when it “fits its own interests”  and that meaningful “follow-through or real change remains elusive.” She indicated that it was time to “turn the page on the old playbook with China, which focused on changing its behavior. Instead, our strategy must expand beyond only pressing China for change and include vigorously defending our values and economic interests from the negative impacts of [China’s] unfair economic policies and practices.” To do so, Ambassador Tai said that the United States “must develop new domestic tools targeted at defending our economic interests, and make strategic investments in our economy,” while also working closely with allies that are similarly adversely affected by China’s practices.

Noting that much of the past year was spent repairing “strained relationships” and “recommit[ing] the United States to the world’s institutions,” Ambassador Tai noted work on new and existing bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral agreements. This includes economic engagement with partners in the Indo-Pacific and a clear commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO). While negotiation and cooperation are preferred, she noted that trade policy can fail to deliver on its promises, and when that happens, the United States will pursue formal dispute settlement and other enforcement options. Ambassador Tai added that “many of our existing trade tools were crafted decades ago” and no longer “adequately address the challenges posed by today’s economy.”  The Biden administration, she explained, is reviewing “existing trade tools and will work with Congress to develop new tools as needed.”

Ambassador Tai reminded the committee that the president’s agenda “begins with a commitment to putting workers at the center of our trade policy” and that the administration in 2021 obtained numerous “wins.” She pointed out that an important part of the trade agenda is “promoting trade policy that is equitable, inclusive, and durable for all Americans.”

Video of the entire March 30, 2022 Ways & Means Committee hearing on President Biden’s trade agenda is available here. See also Update of March 9, 2022, “USTR Releases President Biden’s 2022 Trade Agenda and 2021 Annual Report.”