US Trade Boss Tai: We Will Not Incentivize Firms to Move Jobs Overseas

By Reuters
June 21, 2021 Updated: June 21, 2021

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration said on Monday it was working closely with the United Autoworkers union in pressing Mexico to probe alleged labor rights violations at a General Motors plant in that country, and vowed to fight for a worker-focused trade policy.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told members of the UAW union during a visit to Flint, Michigan, that the Biden administration would work to implement trade policies that lifted wages and expanded opportunity for workers everywhere.

“At USTR we want to encourage a race to the top with higher standards and real, rapid enforcement of our trade agreements,” she said. “We don’t want to create incentives for companies to move jobs overseas to maximize profits.”

Tai told the autoworkers the government’s decision to initiate a case against the GM facility reflected the Biden administration’s determination to fully enforce labor standards negotiated under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement.

GM building
The new GM logo is seen on the facade of the General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Mich., on March 16, 2021. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

“We know that protection unions in Mexico don’t actually represent the workers. When workers are denied independent union representation, it is easier to suppress wages,” she said.

The case, the first brought under the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism in USMCA, could lead to tariffs on some of GM’s most profitable vehicles under the North American trade deal.

Tai, the former top trade lawyer on the House Ways and Means Committee, helped negotiate the labor enforcement mechanism on behalf of Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

By Andrea Shalal