Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the Summit for Democracy’s Indo-Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Meeting

SEOUL – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai is leading the U.S. delegation and delivering remarks today at the Summit for Democracy’s Indo-Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Meeting in Seoul, Korea.

In her remarks, Ambassador Tai will highlight how the Biden Administration is working with our allies and partners to promote democracy, strengthen our institutions, and address corruption.  Ambassador Tai will also underscore how the Administration is using trade to prioritize anti-corruption and promote inclusive economic growth.

Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Thank you, Ms. Sohn, for your kind introduction.

Good morning, everyone.  This is my second time in Seoul as the U.S. Trade Representative, and I continue to be amazed by its vibrancy and beauty.

On behalf of President Biden and the United States, let me thank our hosts, President Yoon Suk Yeol and Minister Park for their leadership this week as co-hosts of this summit.

I would also like to express our gratitude for Korea’s willingness to carry this initiative forward.  

President Biden and President Yoon announced this week that the Republic of Korea will organize the next Summit for Democracy, and we deeply appreciate that Korea will continue convening the democracies of the world to promote freedom and opportunity.  

Democracy is what serves and lifts our communities.  It safeguards our liberty, delivers inclusive prosperity, and unleashes the human potential necessary to meet the challenges of our time.  In short, democracy is what enables our people to flourish.

That is why this summit is critical for our shared future.

Together, we are building on the momentum from the first summit to demonstrate how we are delivering on our commitments and defending democratic institutions and freedoms.

For our part, the United States is announcing significant new funding and policy commitments under the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, especially to advance technology for democracy and to defend against digital authoritarianism.  

Lifting up democracy is not just a responsibility of governments—it is a whole of society effort.  The private sector plays an important role in fostering transparency and accountability in their business activity and their supply chains.  And civil society is critical in exposing corruption and advocating for reform.  

On that note, I want to acknowledge Cynthia Gabriel from the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism in Malaysia, who is joining us today.  The State Department recognized her in December with an Anti-Corruption Champion Award.  Thank you, Cynthia, for your courage and dedication.

The reason why people like Cynthia are so integral to the fight to defend democracy is because, as President Biden said, corruption “eats away at the foundations of democratic societies.”

It undermines public trust and denies government the resources to provide security and foster economic opportunity for citizens.  It distorts economies, disrupts supply chains, and stifles innovation.  

Corruption creates a safe harbor for drug cartels, human traffickers, money launderers, and other criminals.  It aids autocratic regimes and threatens our collective security. 

That is why, from day one, President Biden has put the fight against corruption at the center of his national security and foreign policy.  

He launched the first U.S. National Strategy on Countering Corruption.  It provides a framework for U.S. agencies to work domestically and internationally to fight corruption and related crimes.  

This includes countering money laundering and terrorist financing, increasing the transparency of corporate structures, preventing the misuse of the real estate sector, and addressing the risks posed by financial gatekeepers.

We are also working with our partners in the Financial Action Task Force and other fora on these issues.  And this week, the United States, together with more than twenty Summit partners, is launching a high-level Commitment—the Summit for Democracy Commitment on Beneficial Ownership and the Misuse of Legal Entities. 

We invite all of our Summit partners to join us in endorsing this Commitment.  It will help all of us safeguard our financial systems from those who would conceal their illicit conduct through the misuse of shell companies and other legal structures.

But strong safeguards are not enough—we must also hold corrupt actors accountable.  International cooperation is essential to effective enforcement, and the United States and Korea know this well.

Through years of close cooperation, we recovered substantial corruption proceeds and assisted each other in antitrust, fraud, and bid-rigging investigations that resulted in indictments, convictions, and millions in penalties and restitution.

This kind of collaboration goes beyond our bilateral work.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention against Corruption.  In December, the United States will host the 10th Conference of the States Parties, which will convene the 189 state parties to the Convention to advance anti-corruption initiatives and identify shared priorities.  We look forward to welcoming you to Atlanta for that conference.

Additionally, as the United States hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum this year, we recognize the importance of anti-corruption efforts to promoting inclusive economic growth and leveling the playing field for workers and businesses.  

Through APEC, we are elevating anti-corruption as a regional priority—to enhance informal anti-corruption practitioner networks, raise the importance of addressing foreign and domestic bribery, and engage with stakeholders.  

We are also using our regional economic engagement to prioritize anti-corruption, including through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.  

Specifically, the IPEF will include provisions on preventing and combatting corruption and related financial crimes, improving tax administration, and increasing cooperation and capacity building on these issues.  These commitments are essential to ensure that more people throughout the Indo-Pacific share the benefits of trade and commerce.

In closing, I want to emphasize that all of this work is truly a partnership.

This summit created fifteen “democracy cohorts”—which bring together government and civil society to address practical issues affecting democracy, ranging from labor rights, to election integrity, to anti-corruption.  

I encourage our partners to join these cohorts to further our work on these important issues.  

Our work is not only to see change today—it is for a freer and fairer tomorrow.  The United States is committed to this endeavor, and we look forward to continuing this partnership in the years ahead.

Thank you all for your devotion and commitment.