Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the 2023 Sadie T.M. Alexander Conference for Economics and Related Fields

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered virtual remarks at the 2023 Sadie T.M. Alexander Conference for Economics and Related Fields.

In her remarks, Ambassador Tai applauded Dr. Alexander’s contributions to the well-being of workers and Black women and underscored the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to build a fair and inclusive digital economy that empowers historically underserved and marginalized communities.  Ambassador Tai also emphasized the importance of including diverse voices in trade conversations, particularly Black women, to ensure equitable solutions for small businesses, women entrepreneurs, and American workers.

Ambassador Tai’s remarks as delivered are below:

Hello, everyone.  I’m Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative.  Thanks so much for inviting me to speak at this important conference. 

In 2021, I was sworn in during the centennial year of Dr. Sadie T.M. Alexander becoming the first African American woman to earn a doctorate in economics. 

Dr. Alexander’s early research and commitment to the well-being of workers, especially and including Black families, continue to inspire those of us in public service – to infuse equity, justice, and opportunity into the fabric of public policy with intentionality and purpose. 

Paying tribute to Dr. Alexander’s legacy through forums like these that support, mentor, and expand the ranks of Black women in economics is critical to our collective work. 

As I reflect on the theme of this year’s conference, I am reminded of the fall of 1992, when I was a freshman in college.  And on the first day of the school year, I remember calling home from a payphone outside my dorm because the phone line in the room had not been activated yet.

Fast forward to today – I do not think there has been a single week when I did not have a virtual meeting.

Our digitized world affects all facets of our daily lives – our interactions, economic activities, and how we work. 

It’s all-encompassing and touches on everything from infrastructure, platforms, and apps. 

And because of this broad nature, the issues that impact our people are also diverse and complex – privacy and security; balancing accountability, freedom, innovation, and growth; concentration of power and how that affects small businesses; and energy and resource needs in the context of sustainability.

And that’s why we must ensure that the digital economy is inclusive and fair for all our people, especially for historically underserved and marginalized communities. 

So, at USTR, we’re developing policies that deliver inclusive growth and prosperity to all our communities, including woman-owned businesses and female entrepreneurs – from our new MOU with the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, to our engagements with Kenya, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific, and the Americas. 

We also need to ground our policies on how it affects our workers – particularly Black women.  Because a digital world where you thrive is one where all of us thrive.

We know that people aren’t just consumers; they’re also wage earners.  They’re more than just clicks and page views.  They’re content creators, gig workers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. 

That’s why they need to be a part of the conversation on trade.

Whenever I travel, both domestic and abroad, I try to speak with women leaders, workers, academics, and business owners.  That’s because I want to hear how our policies can better empower all communities. 

I’ve also asked the independent U.S. International Trade Commission to study exactly how our policies have impacted different communities across America.

And in a number of regions around the world – and here at home – our administration is working together to bring more upskilling, mentoring, and networking opportunities for women of all backgrounds.

That includes our work in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which the United States is hosting this year.

One of our themes is how trade policy can drive broad-based growth across the APEC region.  This includes lifting up women entrepreneurs and workers, helping small businesses grow, and unlocking economic opportunities for underrepresented parts of our populations.

Equity and equality are more than just hashtags – they are foundational values that must be embedded in the very algorithms of everything that we do.

And gatherings like this are critical to bring Black women together to jointly fight for this cause.  President Biden and Vice President Harris often say that there’s nothing we can’t accomplish if we come together, and that is most certainly true here.

We will need all of your expertise to apply the lessons of history to design an economy that works for all people. 

Let’s continue our work to shape a future where all Americans take a part in the growing digital world, and where more people from marginalized communities are brought into this important conversation.

Thank you for inviting me, and I hope you make the most of the rest of the program today.