AFT Sends Letter to United States Trade Representative Regarding Worker-Centered Trade Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C., (November 16, 2021) — Today, Americans for Free Trade (AFT), a broad coalition of American businesses, trade organizations, and workers united against tariffs sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai calling for her to implement a worker-centered trade policy that recognizes the importance of imports, exports, and foreign investment to U.S. competitiveness in the global economy.

“As USTR develops the Biden-Harris Administration’s worker-centered trade policy, it has a rare opportunity to tell the positive story about how trade benefits American consumers and workers,” Americans for Free Trade wrote. “We strongly believe this is the time to focus on a trade policy that benefits all stakeholders. Such a trade policy should cover imports, exports, and foreign investment, all of which play important roles in our economy and society.”

More than 160 trade associations signed on to the letter. The full text of the letter may be found here and below.

November 16, 2021 
The Honorable Katherine Tai
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Tai:

On behalf of the Americans for Free Trade coalition, we would like to commend you for your leadership and stakeholder engagement at USTR. After years of unpredictability and a devastating economic crisis caused by the global pandemic, global trade stakeholders welcome a new day and vision. As USTR develops the Biden-Harris Administration’s worker-centered trade policy, it has a rare opportunity to tell the positive story about how trade benefits American consumers and workers. We strongly believe this is the time to focus on a trade policy that benefits all stakeholders. Such a trade policy should cover imports, exports, and foreign investment, all of which play important roles in our economy and society.

By way of background, Americans for Free Trade represents every part of the U.S. economy including manufacturers, farmers and agribusinesses, retailers, technology companies, service suppliers, natural gas and oil companies, importers, exporters, and other supply chain stakeholders. Collectively, we employ tens of millions of Americans through our vast supply chains.

As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic dislocation, USTR will play a vital role in helping American stakeholders understand how trade raises standards of living, creates job opportunities, enables extensive choices of affordable, high-quality products and services, and creates market opportunities abroad. Trade is essential to all Americans and sectors of the economy; American manufacturers are also importers; American consumers are workers; American farmers are exporters. These segments of the economy all work together to create jobs, innovate, and support our communities across the country.

After years of growing inequality and stagnating wages, we support a trade policy that, as you noted, advances the interests of all Americans who “…benefit from having good jobs, with good wages…” An effective post-pandemic trade policy will help American workers stretch their hard-earned wages when they put on their consumer hats and help American manufacturers gain access to affordable inputs to support their global competitiveness and offer high quality, affordable products that American consumers demand. It will also provide U.S. manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and service providers access to new growth markets around the world, which will create jobs, grow wages, and raise skill and education levels at home.

But too often there is a narrative that imports are relied upon to offer “cheap goods” at the expense of the American worker. Such a view fails to consider the full benefits of imports to the U.S. economy. Imports not only provide American consumers – who are also American workers and families – a greater variety of products at affordable prices, but also help offset inflationary pressures, provide more than half of U.S. manufacturers’ intermediate inputs and components, and enrich our economy with employment in manufacturing, design, engineering, research, logistics, services and more. As noted in the May 2021 “Imports Work for American Workers” report, more than 21 million American jobs rely on imports. These important American jobs, and their value to the U.S. economy, must be considered as part of a holistic worker-centered trade policy.

Today’s economy relies upon interconnected global supply chains, often keeping high-paying, high-skilled jobs in the United States while working with overseas partners for final assembly. These imports reflect a globalized world in which specialized economies and workforces do what they do best, collaborating on products sold around the world. These supply chains are complex and should continue to play to America’s strengths. We encourage the Administration to embrace and support trade policies that both allow U.S. companies to remain globally competitive and open new markets and attract more foreign investment in the United States, in turn creating more American jobs.

As USTR balances stakeholder interests and forges a new path for trade policy, we urge it to publicly embrace the important role that imports, exports, and foreign investment play in creating a strong U.S. economy and how they work together to create benefits for American consumers, manufacturers, retailers, service providers, and, most importantly, American workers. Imports and exports are not in competition with each other but rather support each other and the U.S. industries who rely on them. And foreign investment continues to create jobs, revitalize communities, and expand access to overseas markets for U.S. goods and services.

We all agree that Americans are both “workers and wage-earners” and “consumers”. Underscoring the dignity of work and a decent wage is natural and aligns with our identity as Americans. A trade policy that claims to advance the interests and needs of all Americans should seek to meet them everywhere they work, live, succeed, struggle, and hope in today’s pandemic world. Their future and dignity depend on it.

We look forward to working with USTR and the Biden-Harris Administration on the development of a true worker-centered trade policy that embraces the importance of imports, exports, and foreign investment to both American workers and consumers, as well as to the U.S economy and our global competitiveness.


Accessories Council
ACT | The App Association
Agriculture Transportation Coalition
ALMA, International (Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing and Acoustics)
American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)
American Association of Exporters and Importers (AAEI)
American Association of Port Authorities
American Bakers Association
American Bridal & Prom Industry Association (ABPIA)
American Chemistry Council
American Coatings Association, Inc. (ACA)
American Down and Feather Council
American Fly Fishing Trade Association
American Home Furnishings Alliance
American Lighting Association
American Petroleum Institute
American Pyrotechnics Association
American Rental Association
American Seed Trade Association
American Specialty Toy Retailing Association
American Wind Energy Association
Arizona Technology Council
Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association
Association For Creative Industries
Association for PRINT Technologies
Association of American Publishers
Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)
Auto Care Association
Beer Institute
Business Alliance for Customs Modernization
California Retailers Association
Carolina Loggers Association
Chemical Industry Council of Delaware (CICD)
Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT)
Coalition of Services Industries (CSI)
Colorado Retail Council
Columbia River Customs Brokers and Forwarders Assn.
Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
Consumer Brands Association
Consumer Technology Association
Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)
CropLife America
Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders Assn. of Washington State
Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders of Northern California
Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
Electronic Transactions Association
Energy Workforce & Technology Council
Experiential Designers and Producers Association
Fashion Accessories Shippers Association (FASA)
Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association
Flexible Packaging Association
Florida Ports Council
Florida Retail Federation
Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA)
Fragrance Creators Association
Game Manufacturers Association
Gemini Shippers Association
Georgia Retailers
Global Chamber®
Global Cold Chain Alliance
Greeting Card Association
Halloween Industry Association
Home Fashion Products Association
Home Furnishings Association
Household and Commercial Products Association
Idaho Retailers Association
Illinois Retail Merchants Association
Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association (IOPFDA)
Indiana Retail Council
Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)
International Bottled Water Association (IBWA)
International Foodservice Distributors Association
International Housewares Association
International Warehouse and Logistics Association
International Wood Products Association
ISSA – The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association
Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee
Juice Products Association (JPA)
Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association
Leather and Hide Council of America
Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association
Los Angeles Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Assn.
Louisiana Retailers Association
Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association
Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association
Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay
Maryland Retailers Association
Meat Import Council of America
Methanol Institute
Michigan Chemistry Council
Michigan Retailers Association
Minnesota Retailers Association
Missouri Retailers Association
Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association
Motorcycle Industry Council
NAPIM (National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers)
National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)
National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD)
National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones (NAFTZ)
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of Music Merchants
National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers
National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM)
National Confectioners Association
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of America
National Fisheries Institute
National Foreign Trade Council
National Grocers Association
National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Restaurant Association
National Retail Federation
National Ski & Snowboard Retailers Association
National Sporting Goods Association
Natural Products Association
New Jersey Retail Merchants Association
North American Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors (NAUMD)
North Carolina Retail Merchants Association
Ohio Council of Retail Merchants
Outdoor Industry Association
Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Assns. Inc.
Pennsylvania Retailers’ Association
Personal Care Products Council
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
Plumbing Manufacturers International
Power Tool Institute (PTI)
Promotional Products Association International
Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association
Retail Association of Maine
Retail Council of New York State
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Retailers Association of Massachusetts
RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)
RV Industry Association
San Diego Customs Brokers and Forwarders Assn.
Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA)
Snowsports Industries America
Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates
Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)
South Dakota Retailers Association
Specialty Equipment Market Association
Specialty Vehicle Institute of America
Sports & Fitness Industry Association
Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)
Texas Retailers Association
Texas Water Infrastructure Network
The Airforwarders Association
The Fertilizer Institute
The Hardwood Federation
The Toy Association
The Vinyl Institute
Travel Goods Association
Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA)
United States Council for International Business
United States Fashion Industry Association
US Global Value Chain Coalition
US-China Business Council
Virginia Retail Merchants Association
Virginia-DC District Export Council (VA-DC DEC)
Washington Retail Association
Window and Door Manufacturers Association
World Pet Association, Inc. (WPA)