US Trade Representative Katherine Tai Highlights Populist ‘Worker-Centered’ Trade in Davos

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 17: United States Trade Representative Katherine Chi Tai is t
Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai, speaking at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, highlighted a populist “worker-centered” trade agenda that breaks with the globalization of the past.

Tai, considered one of the Biden administration’s few economic nationalists, touted the trade agenda which she says is built around the needs of America’s working- and middle-class workforce rather than corporate special interests hoping to boost profit margins by offshoring production to low-wage countries.

Specifically, Tai noted that the World Economic Forum “is associated with a very specific kind of globalization,” suggesting that such globalization, while producing prosperity for some, has run “into some limitations. … enormous amounts of prosperity without an inclusiveness that comes with it,” Tai said.

The reference is likely to Washington, DC’s, decades-long free trade consensus that has helped U.S. income skyrocket for the top one percent while shrinking wages for the bottom 90 percent.

Likewise, as coastal cities have grown their wealth tremendously in the last few decades, free trade has spurred a carving out of middle-American cities and towns, which has coincided with a drug overdose epidemic that is now killing more than 100,000 Americans annually.

A closed factory is shown in downtown on October 24, 2016 in East Liverpool, Ohio

A closed factory is shown in downtown on October 24, 2016, in East Liverpool, Ohio. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Rising inequality is driving a desire on our part to lead … the thinking around what a new version of globalization might be,” Tai said:

One of the most important lessons of this version of globalization is to let us not lose sight of who we want to benefit from our vision and from the economic opportunity that we want to create. And that is let us not lose sight of the people, the people that comprise all of our economics who are not just consumers but who are also workers, who are also family members, community members. Let’s look at the quality of the prosperity that we are creating. [Emphasis added]

Tai’s remarks in Davos come nearly two months after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released a sweeping report that detailed the crippling impact globalization of the American economy via free trade has had on working- and middle-class communities.

The report was requested by Tai in early 2022.

Among other conclusions, the report found that U.S. free trade policy has allowed companies to more readily move American jobs overseas and keep wages low for jobs that remain in the United States.

“Participants identified trade policy as the cause of job losses. One union representative noted that trade policies often have loopholes or are manipulated by China and other countries so that the policies are not operating as intended,” the report states:

Another union representative stated that current trade agreements allow for more capital mobility than the agreements prior to the 1980s, enabling auto, electronics, and steel manufacturers to move overseas for any number of reasons. Various union representatives explained that companies are able to use the threat of moving jobs overseas for various reasons — such as better tax implications and lower wages — to limit the power of labor unions and keep domestic wages down. [Emphasis added]

Still, working- and middle-class Americans continue to face being laid off as companies close plants across the United States — many while not touching their overseas plants.

This week, about 225 Timken Company employees in South Carolina were told they would be laid off from their jobs at the corporation’s roller bearings plant. Meanwhile, the Timken Company operates plants across China, India, Brazil, and Mexico, among other countries.

Likewise, Teamsters union representatives are sounding the alarm over a reported offshoring scheme by Energizer that would see hundreds of Americans laid off in Wisconsin at two plants as the jobs are sent to England and other states.

In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, more than 650 Americans are being laid off at two LSC Communications plants after the printing company was acquired in 2020 by Atlas Holdings. Some of the jobs are being sent to existing plants in Minnesota and Indiana.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at Follow him on Twitter here.


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