USCIB Vice President for International Investment and Trade Policy Alice Slayton Clark and USCIB Senior Counsel Tom Mackall participated in the inaugural principles meeting of the US-EU Trade and Labor Dialogue (TALD). The exclusive meeting featured United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Labor Department Undersecretary of International Affairs Thea Lee, and European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, along with select representatives of U.S. business and labor unions. Business Europe and European Trade Union Confederation were also present.
An offshoot of the US-EU Trade and Technology Council, the TALD is a trilateral dialogue among business, labor and government to develop policies and transatlantic alignment on key labor concerns, particularly in the area of digital. This first meeting focused on eliminating forced labor in supply chains, a priority trade concern for the Biden Administration. “Our partnership with the European Union, and our collaboration with labor unions and business leaders, is critical to our work to make trade a force for good and transform the way we treat workers…around the world,” said Ambassador Tai.
While USCIB condemns all forms of forced labor, Clark urged policymakers to develop a strategy that targets root causes. “This requires developing a whole of government strategy that includes enhanced capacity-building and technical assistance that helps countries comply with core labor standards, combat corruption, strengthen labor ministries and courts, and safeguard workers from harmful recruitment practices,” she said.
Clark also asserted that “enhanced trade and investment incentives can play an important role, but import restrictions must be a last resort – targeted, proportional and non-discriminatory. Where allegations of forced labor exist, as a general matter, there should be early engagement with the trade community.” USCIB also expressed its opposition to customs serving as lead or only agency managing forced labor issues.
Clark’s advocacy echoed positions taken in USCIB’s 2022 forced labor trade strategy submission and comments on the Uygur Forced Labor Act. They were aligned with messaging from other industry representatives in the room, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Labor representatives on the other hand, extolled the benefits of import bans and called for mandatory corporate human rights due diligence legislation that requires identification, reporting and remediation for cases linked to forced labor.
As a key principal in the TALD, USCIB will continue to press business interests as part of the dialogue on forced labor trade strategy as well efforts to address the impact of digital trade on workers.