USTR Tai, Biden Administration Under Bipartisan Fire for Not Pursuing FTAs


The Biden Administration and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai have come under withering fire from lawmakers of both parties in Congress for not pursuing free trade agreements. Senate Finance Democrat Maria Cantwell told Ambassador Tai that Cantwell’s Washington state farmers want free trade deals.

“They want to know that we are fighting to increase market access. When you think about wheat, when you think about potatoes, when you think about some of these other products, it’s more than 70 percent of the product is an export market.”

At the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican Adrian Smith said; “I’m concerned that it seems President Biden has not given you the mandate to address market access with any of our trading partners.”

Top Finance Republican Mike Crapo of Idaho said; “We’ve got nations in the Indo-Pacific who are crying out for free trade negotiations with us so that they can strengthen their relationship to us economically, rather than being tied to China.”

But pressed repeatedly on the lack of FTAs like CPTPP in the Biden Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, Tai switched from claiming some wins on tariff cuts to revealing a more political trade motive. “Our traditional trade models and traditional FTAs have led us to a place where we are facing a considerable backlash that we are listening to, from our own people, about concerns regarding the offshoring and outsourcing of American jobs and opportunities through these types of arrangements.”

Tai says recent FTAs have been “so big and so uneven in terms of the wins and losses that they have collapsed under their own weight,” the logic of which did not go over well with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey. “Every single U.S. Trade Rep has worked on completed negotiations of an FTA. My concern is that you might be on track to be the first Trade Rep not to continue that streak.”

Which Toomey complained would come at a big cost to the nation…