Rethinking U.S.-Trade Priorities: A conversation with Alexandra Whittaker, Chief Trade Counsel, House Ways and Means

On March 12, 2021 the Meridian Corporate Council partnered with Merck to host a virtual conversation with Chief Trade Counsel Alexandra Whittaker of the House Committee on Ways and Means and Subcommittee on Trade, for a discussion on Congressional Democrats’ trade priorities in 2021. In her remarks, she focused on the current U.S. engagement with the WTO and provided an update on the free trade negotiations currently in process.

Ms. Alexandra Whittaker was recently named Chief Trade Counsel to the Chairman and Democratic Members of the Committee on Ways and Means. Before joining the Committee staff, Alexandra was Assistant General Counsel for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). During her time at USTR, Alexandra also served as Assistant Legal Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland.

In her remarks, Ms. Whittaker emphasized that incorporating global equity and worker-centric trade policies into the United States’ national trade agenda are top priorities to Congressional Democrats in 2021. For instance, the recent proposal for an adjustment in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to include human rights, climate, rule of law, and corruption as criteria for countries to receive GSP status and including those standards in trade negotiations will incentivize countries to align with U.S. values and protect American companies from entering risky markets where foreign regulations may not support their core business beliefs.

Ms. Whittaker also expressed her enthusiasm about collaborating with the WTO’s newly elected Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on creative solutions to internal issues at the WTO. Ms. Whittaker stated that holding trade partners accountable to fulfill basic requirements is vital to international relations. While the WTO has traditionally been used to navigate trade disputes, Ms. Whittaker hopes to utilize the multilateral organization to address positive changes such as that with women economic empowerment and environmental trade issues.

Project summary

Rethinking U.S.-Trade Priorities: A conversation with Alexandra Whittaker, Chief Trade Counsel, House Ways and Means | March 2021
Number of Attendees: 57
Countries: United States
Impact Areas: Business and Trade
Program Areas: Diplomacy
Partners: Private Sector