WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Katherine Tai to serve as United States Trade Representative, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) secured her commitment to putting workers at the center of U.S. trade policy, and using his Brown-Wyden worker protection provision in the USMCA to defend the rights of workers in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as make forced labor enforcement – particularly a crackdown on China’s massive forced labor program – a top priority. Brown, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, a leader on trade policy and a vocal champion of American workers, was a strong supporter of Tai’s nomination.

Brown and Tai worked together to negotiate the new NAFTA that included the Brown-Wyden Provisions that Brown helped secure to benefit workers by including the first-ever overhaul of labor enforcement standards in a trade agreement since the U.S. started negotiating trade deals. The new agreement allows workers in Mexico to report when a company is violating their rights and action within months if it’s determined that workers’ rights have been violated, and applies punitive damages when corporations stop workers from organizing and stops goods from coming into the U.S. if these anti-worker tactics continue.

Brown met with Tai last month to outline the importance of pursuing a trade policy that is centered around the Dignity of Work, how to build trust from Ohioans with respect to U.S. trade policy, and the example of USMCA as proof that we can make trade policy more pro-worker.

More on the hearing exchange is included below and video is available HERE:

Brown: Senator Wyden and I also led the effort to make sure U.S. law prohibits any imports coming into our country that were made with forced labor. In the years since our amendment passed, the U.S. government has made some, but only some progress on forced labor enforcement. China’s state-sanctioned, large-scale forced labor program, especially for millions of Uyghurs and other Muslims, shows that we need to do more. If confirmed, will you commit to making forced labor enforcement – particularly a crackdown on China’s massive forced labor program –a top priority?

Tai: Yes, Senator Brown. I think the use of forced labor is probably the crudest example of the race to the bottom that I was talking about earlier today with Sen. Cassidy

Brown: From your time on Ways and Means, a Dignity of Work trade agenda, you recognize is essential. From your work I can see that building trust with Americans in Ohio and other states who know their livelihoods and their families haven’t been the focus of trade policy. My opposition to our trade policy has been grounded in the fact that it has really hurt workers in my state, across the industrial Midwest and really nationally.

My question is this in the last few seconds, what are some of the first things you will do as USTR to start to regain the trust of Americans on trade. How do you plan to build on that framework in future trade negotiations? […]

What are some of the first things you will do as USTR to start to regain the trust of Americans on trade. How do you plan to build on that framework in future trade negotiations.

Tai: Senator Brown, I think you start by listening. You start by indicating that the formulators of U.S. trade policy care how it is impacting America and regular Americans.

I know in my earlier conversation with you, we talked about trade’s impact on the citizens and residents of Mahoning Valley. You know, I think that is where you start. And in terms of where you go from there, then you not just have to listen but you also have to take what you’re hearing and translate that into an adjustment and changes to the approach that you have been taking.

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