Apr 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden's trade chief makes climate change focus of her first speech

Katherine Tai

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's top trade negotiator is pledging to employ trade policy levers to fight climate change and ecological degradation, warning of a "closing window to prevent a catastrophic environmental chain reaction."

Why it matters: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Thursday made climate change the focus of her first speech in the role. The decision underscores how the White House hopes to marshal a wide-ranging, government-wide approach to the topic.

The big picture: "For too long, the traditional trade community has resisted the view that trade policy is a legitimate tool in helping to solve the climate crisis," she said at an event hosted by the liberal Center for American Progress.

What's next: Tai pledged robust enforcement of environmental provisions — including anti-deforestation measures — in the existing U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and other trade pacts too.

  • More broadly, she said that "developing innovative environmental technologies, goods, and services and cultivating strategic international supply chains for trade will be key."

Yes, but: She acknowledged key barriers. Tai called the USMCA's lack of explicit climate provisions a "glaring omission."

  • And she said WTO rules create headwinds, arguing "the multilateral trading system has no rules to address the corporate incentive to participate in the race to the bottom."
  • The New York Times has more.
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