U.S. Trade Unveiled: Insights with Deputy USTR Sarah Bianchi

The Honorable Sarah Bianchi, Deputy United States Trade Representative for Asia, Africa, Investment, Services, Textiles, and Industrial Competitiveness in discussion with The Honorable Francisco Sanchez, Partner at Holland & Knight, Member of Meridian Board of Trustees & former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Trade captured during an Insights program at Meridian House in Washington, DC on September 8, 2023. Photo by Oskar Dapp.


September 8, 2023

Deputy United States Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi engaged in an on-the-record discussion for international representatives and private sector leaders to shed light on USTR’s top agenda items. In conversation moderated by Meridian Trustee and former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Trade Francisco Sanchez, Ambassador Bianchi explored department priorities and key areas of opportunity, including the Taiwan trade agreement, renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, critical minerals, and more.

Here are some top takeaways from the program:

1. Taiwan Trade Agreement: The Gateway to 21st Century Trade

Ambassador Bianchi highlighted the groundbreaking United States-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade. The first tranche of the agreement, signed in June 2023, focuses on enhancing customs processes, bolstering trade facilitation, and ensuring transparency for small exporters. As a foundational step, the agreement signals to organizations on both sides that business channels are open. The USTR is currently in the second round of negotiations. More comprehensive discussions are expected in areas like agriculture, labor and environment, and both sides are committed to finding solutions and forging stronger ties.

2. East African Community’s Trade and Investment Framework Agreement

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the East Africa Community (EAC) is gaining momentum. Engagements in Nairobi through the EAC TIFA and collaboration with countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania demonstrate U.S. dedication to building trust and dialogue in Africa. Initiatives like the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit emphasize inclusive growth, support for small and medium enterprises and strengthening of supply chains. Bianchi pointed to Kenya as a potential model for regional economic growth.

3. AGOA Renewal: Shaping Africa’s Trade Future

Discussions are currently under way for the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA),  set to expire in 2025. Key priorities for the U.S. include addressing the needs of new entrants, understanding graduation thresholds and next steps for successful nations, and streamlining procedures. Reauthorizing AGOA and consensus-building with African partners are crucial to establish a clear path forward.

4. Critical Minerals

Securing critical mineral supply chains is paramount for revitalizing U.S. manufacturing. These raw materials are essential to industries like automotive and electronics manufacturing, where diversification and responsible practices are key. As an importer of these materials, U.S. trade talks are centered on establishing robust supply chains, humane labor practices, and climate-friendly measures. Building relationships with mineral-rich nations aims to reduce dependency on external sources and enhance smart growth.

5. Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity

Negotiations related to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) trade agreement are currently underway in Bangkok. While focusing on high-standard outcomes on trade, clean economies, and fair economic practices, these talks are forging a landmark IPEF Supply Chain Agreement. The overarching focus remains on resolving long-standing barriers and promoting global resilience in the face of changing economic landscapes.

This program was made possible through the support of:

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