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Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance Lisa Wang Remarks – May 3, 2022

Remarks by Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance Lisa Wang at the Annual Meeting of the Customs and International Trade Bar Association (CITBA)

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Washington, DC

May 3, 2022

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As a former member of CITBA, it is my distinct pleasure to speak to you today. I do not need to tell you about the important role CITBA plays in the development and practice of international trade and customs law. I commend all the outstanding volunteer work performed in support of CITBA’s mission and thank you for the opportunity to speak today at your Annual Meeting, particularly Elizbeth Drake for extending this invitation.

And I particularly salute CITBA’s recent diversity initiatives. The customs and trade bar must be more inclusive of communities traditionally underrepresented in our profession. CITBA’s commitment to diversity, as evidenced by the efforts of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee led by Irving Williamson and Mikki Cottet represents an important step in pursuit of that goal.

Since January of this year, I have had the honor of a lifetime in serving as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance, following confirmation by the United States Senate. In this role, I am responsible for administering the antidumping and countervailing duty laws, ensuring foreign compliance with international trade agreements, supporting the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements, and administering the Foreign Trade Zones Program. I am humbled by the confidence put in me by the Biden-Harris Administration to steward those critical functions and excited by the opportunities ahead to ensure that U.S. companies and U.S. workers can compete against their global competitors on a level playing field.

My primary guidepost in performing my duties as Assistant Secretary is doing what is best for the American worker. I genuinely believe that American workers are not just the backbone of our country, but its beating heart. Through my personal and professional experiences, I have developed tremendous admiration and respect for all that American workers have accomplished for the resiliency of our nation.

And I understand the importance of what Enforcement and Compliance does on behalf of the American worker. I have had the honor to meet some of the amazing workers that have been affected by unfair competition and seen firsthand the effect unfair trade can have, not just on those individuals, but on their families and communities. But I have also witnessed jobs being saved when dumped imports were countered by Commerce’s remedial duties. I have seen U.S. manufacturers who have felt secure enough to invest in a new plant and create new jobs because of the relief entitled to them under the U.S. AD and CVD laws. These things matter greatly to me.

This country is built on the dedication, resourcefulness, agility, ingenuity, and dignity of the American worker. Regrettably, American workers have not always had their proper place at the center of trade policy discussions and the application of U.S. trade law. The Administration’s commitment to a worker-centric approach to international trade is one I stand firmly behind and am eager to contribute to as Assistant Secretary.

In pursuing our agency’s enforcement mission, I will prioritize the objective of empowering the American worker in making my decisions. I will strive to ensure that I understand the perspectives of U.S. workers when confronted with the various issues that will come before me. And I will aspire to make maximum use of the tools available to me under the law in support of the American worker.

With that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to highlight the efforts of all the outstanding workers at Enforcement and Compliance, who make what our agency does possible. As many of you know, I had prior experience working at Commerce, both in what was then known as Import Administration, then in the Chief Counsel’s office. So, I was already quite familiar with the considerable talent awaiting me as Assistant Secretary. Since I began this job, I have been incredibly impressed with that talent, just as I anticipated, and more.

We have a fantastic team at Enforcement and Compliance, starting with the individual case analysts in our AD/CVD Operations unit, whom many of you in this room specializing in trade remedies interact with regularly. These professionals serve as our first line in reviewing submitted factual information, assessing interested parties’ arguments, working with outside counsel, and preparing our determinations in AD/CVD proceedings, among their many tasks. Each and every one of them deserves immense credit for the quality of their work product and the tireless hours they work.

If I had time, I would recognize them all by name here today. But I do want to acknowledge those case analysts – and all E&C employees, for that matter – who joined us since March 2020, when the Federal Government adopted maximum telework flexibility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many of you at law firms and other federal agencies can attest, remotely onboarding new employees during a pandemic presented its share of challenges. E&C is no exception. But since March 2020, E&C has brought aboard 81 new employees, all of whom have already made valuable contributions to E&C.

I additionally would like to call attention to the office directors and program managers in our Operations unit, who are also critical to the everyday function of E&C. They make my job much, much easier, and much, much more enjoyable. And I am extremely happy to report that the recent appropriations bill for FY 2022 included initial funding for a new ninth AD/CVD office in our Operations unit, which is very much needed in response to the proliferation over the last decade of active trade remedy cases currently administered by E&C.

Similarly, I cannot offer enough praise for those in E&C’s Office of Policy and Negotiations. From the most recently hired policy analysts to our highly trained accountants and economists to those who have devoted decades of their careers to Commerce, I benefit daily from our policy office’s knowledge, expertise, and candid input.

I also want to acknowledge the many talented lawyers providing E&C with wise counsel and advocacy in the Chief Counsel’s office. Many of those attorneys are with us here today and they deserve recognition as well. And finally, I would like to thank the E&C Communications team for their tireless work to communicate the importance of trade enforcement to a healthy trading system in a way that is understandable to everyone, and not just to us, trade lawyers.

It has been an incredibly busy four months since I was sworn in, and I am proud of our accomplishments. I am even more excited by the prospect of what E&C will accomplish in the months and years ahead.

As many of you know, Commerce is in the process of returning to the Hoover building, with the understanding that such a return may have new meaning and challenges in the post-pandemic world. With Commerce personnel starting to return to the office on a limited basis, it is important that we seek to address those aspects of our work that have been most affected by COVID-19. One such area relates to verifications in our trade remedy cases. We do intend to get back to conducting verifications on a regular basis – whether they be on site or virtual – as travel restrictions, available technology, and health and safety protocols permit.

And consistent with a worker-centric trade agenda, it is important that our workers in E&C meet and interact with those workers out in the country on whose behalf they serve. That is why I have prioritized outreach initiatives such as domestic plant tours, so that our staff can gain better appreciation – like I have – for the real-world implications of what we do.

Despite the opportunities that lie ahead, there are challenges as well. As already noted, we face an ever-increasing workload without a corresponding increase in resources. E&C is now responsible for administering 660 AD and CVD orders, which is a 137 percent increase over the number of orders in place just a decade ago. Each of those orders has the potential to spawn any number of distinct administrative segments requiring a considerable expenditure of time and effort on the part of our staff. On top of that, E&C’s portfolio continues to expand. EAPA referrals from Customs, our work with Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security on Section 232 duty exclusion requests, and steel and aluminum import monitoring are just a sample of items E&C has added to its already overcrowded plate in recent years.

But I am optimistic that we will rise to those challenges. And there are many recent successes that we as E&C can point to as evidence of that:

  • The rigorous enforcement of the U.S. trade remedy laws has benefited U.S. industries and small- and medium-sized enterprises in the U.S. aluminum, tire, silicon metal, cabinet, and textile industries, among numerous other U.S. industries.
  • Ensuring compliance of trade agreements has led to terminations of China’s AD/CVD investigations against U.S. exports, addressed China’s technical barriers to trade, held China accountable for its subsidies usage, and increased transparency at the WTO.
  • E&C’s outreach efforts have helped U.S. fruit and vegetable growers understand and access the U.S. trade laws. Meanwhile, E&C’s monitoring and enforcement efforts have revitalized U.S. critical industries, like the American nuclear industry, and have addressed circumvention and other concerns in the steel and aluminum industries.
  • E&C’s Office of Foreign Trade Zones has encouraged reshoring of U.S. industries, and enhanced U.S. production for, among many other products, the production of a component of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer in Massachusetts.

I am committed to continue building upon those successes during my tenure. I thank you for your attention this afternoon and am happy to take a few questions.