President Joe Biden greets U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai during his remarks at a Lunar New Year Celebration by Katie Ricks is licensed under public domain.

House Republicans have strongly criticized United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai for the Biden administration’s recent blunders on digital trade.

In a House Way and Means hearing on Tuesday, lawmakers sounded off on Ambassador Tai for subverting the digital economy and surrendering American leadership on e-commerce regulation. Americans for Tax Reform applauds House Republicans for holding Ambassador Tai accountable for these USTR failures, which will needlessly harm a thriving sector of the US economy and strengthen the economic influence of American adversaries.

In October 2023, Ambassador Tai announced the Biden administration’s intention to withdraw longstanding US support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) 1998 digital trade moratorium, a pillar of free-market e-commerce. By establishing an outright ban on customs’ duties for “electronic transmissions”, this moratorium has allowed digital trade to flourish across international borders for the last quarter of a century. Nevertheless, when questioned on their opposition to a popular free-market safeguard, USTR officials have continually insisted on “balancing the right to regulate in the public interest and the need to address anticompetitive behavior in the digital economy.”

On Tuesday, House Republicans forcefully denounced the Biden administration’s digital trade policies after months of stalling and false promises from Ambassador Tai. House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) commenced the hearing by admitting that he was once “optimistic about the progress that we could achieve for American workers.” Nevertheless, rather than working for the interests of the American public, Chairman Smith argued that “the Biden administration seeks to appease progressive activists to make trade ‘woke’ and surrender US priorities on digital trade.”

Under questioning, Ambassador Tai often took a defensive and uncooperative stance when confronted with the Biden administration’s failures on digital trade. For instance, when asked to define a discriminatory threshold for digital services taxes (DSTs) against American companies, Ambassador Tai refused to offer an estimate, arguing that she was “the United States Trade Representative, not the United States Tax Representative.”

In a heated exchange, Representative Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) further grilled Ambassador Tai on the digital trade issue, arguing that “the Biden administration’s trade agenda does not exist…we have basically surrendered on areas such as digital trade.” Nevertheless, Ambassador Tai quickly struck back, stating “I disagree with almost everything that you just said. I see it as a tremendous line of disrespect that you do not see the trade agenda that is before you.” Time and time again, Ambassador Tai refused to answer the simplest of questions and often levied thinly veiled ad hominem attacks at lawmakers. For instance, when asked about her respect for the constitutional lawmaking process, Ambassador Tai tersely replied that she “would be happy to answer your questions in writing. I find your strategy of questioning to be disrespectful and unserious.”

It is clear that in addition to surrendering American leadership on digital trade, Ambassador Tai views herself as immune from congressional accountability. While undermining a pillar of free-market e-commerce, the Biden administration cannot be expected to answer for its unilateral sabotage of the American digital economy. Americans for Tax Reform applauds House Republicans for their criticism of this rogue executive agency, whose misguided agenda will harm thriving digital creators, undermine global free trade and surrender American leadership on e-commerce regulation.

See also:

30 Free Market Groups and Activists Oppose Biden’s Surrender on Digital Trade

NORQUIST: Biden Enables Freeloading on American Innovation