Speeches and Statements

Rep. Stephanie Murphy Speech, Outstanding Woman of the Year Award, Association of Women in International Trade

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Washington, October 12, 2021 | comments

Thank you so much.

I want to thank the Women in International Trade for this award.  It’s a tremendous honor.  I’m deeply grateful to you all, and wish we could be celebrating together in person.

I also want to congratulate my co-honorees this evening, including Jennifer Hillman, who is receiving your Lifetime Achievement Award.  I admire Jennifer very much and have come to value her counsel.       

And I can’t tell you how happy I am to be introduced by Aiko Lane.  In Washington, it’s common to refer to someone as “my good friend” even if you barely know or can’t stand that person.  But Aiko is, in fact, my very close friend, my former colleague at the Department of Defense in the early 2000s, and someone I like and respect so much.  Being introduced by Aiko is really special for me. 

You know, for me, tonight’s event is a ray of light in a pretty dark time.  It’s so reassuring to be reminded that there is a community of people out there—in this case, a community of smart, thoughtful, experienced women—who don’t view trade as a four-letter word. 

It’s no secret that the last few years have been especially difficult for people—like me and, I imagine, like many of you—who are proud and unashamed to call themselves pro-trade. 

It’s been tough for folks like us—policymakers and practitioners who don’t view trade in goods and services as a panacea that solves all of our problems, but who do believe that increased trade is vital to advancing America’s economic and foreign policy interests. 

It’s been a distressing time for those of us who are skeptical of political leaders, on both the right and the left, who resort to populist rhetoric and protectionist actions—and, in so doing, often end up hurting the very American workers and businesses they purport to be fighting for.

So tonight is a celebration, but I hope it’s also a call to action. 

It’s critically important for people like us not to give up and not to give in, to push back against the conventional wisdom and the standard narratives around trade when they are misguided (as they so often are), and to keep on making an affirmative case for good, smart, forward-leaning trade policies.

Our case for trade should center on the American worker.  Contrary to the simplistic argument advanced by trade critics, trade helps far more workers than it hurts. 

Expanding the export of goods and services supports good jobs and strengthens the middle class.

Of course, workers are also consumers, and foreign imports increase choice and reduce prices for American families, who are very concerned about inflation right now.

As the last few years have made painfully clear, American workers, firms, and consumers bear a heavy economic burden when our government imposes tariffs on imports and foreign governments then inevitably impose retaliatory tariffs on our exports.  In particular, the Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs put in place under the Trump administration and maintained under the Biden administration have done little to change China’s unfair trade and investment practices and have angered and alienated the very allies we need in our corner to effectively influence Beijing’s behavior.    

Working to enhance trade is not something that we should delay or defer until after the pandemic subsides.  To the contrary, trade is a tool we can use, right now, to help workers and businesses build back better.        

Beyond its economic benefits, trade promotes our national security.  I worked as a national security specialist at the Department of Defense and now serve on the House Armed Services Committee.  Those of us in the foreign policy world are fond of talking about the importance of the “three D’s—defense, diplomacy, and development aid—as our key tools for advancing America’s foreign policy goals. 

However, I always add a fourth “D” to that list—deals.  Other advanced economies—both our allies and our adversaries—are taking the initiative to craft new trade agreements, while we sit stagnant, missing opportunity after opportunity to increase our influence and promote our values in critical regions of the world.  Withdrawal from TPP is the ultimate case in point, a geostrategic mistake of the highest order at a time when everyone is trying to talk tough on China. 

So, let’s have fun tonight, but let’s also keep fighting the good fight together.  It’s a battle worth waging—and a battle worth winning. 

Thank you again for this wonderful honor and have a great evening.

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