In our global economy, every state needs international trade in order to generate growth and create good jobs. But some states are especially reliant on foreign trade to maintain a robust economy; Washington is without question one of these states. That’s why Washington state businesses are almost uniform in their support for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) — and why more than two dozen of us recently traveled all the way to the other Washington to show our support for TPA and the rest of President Obama’s trade agenda on Capitol Hill.
TPA is a vital tool in securing beneficial trade deals for U.S. workers and businesses. Putting the reactionary rhetoric aside, TPA is nothing controversial. TPA simply streamlines the process and timeline by which Congress considers and votes on trade deals. This approach is essential because it gives our country’s trade negotiators both clear direction and clear accountability.
Every president from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush had some form of TPA at their disposal until 2007. This April, however, the heads of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee — Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden, D-Oregon — as well as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reinstate TPA. We strongly advocated for passage of this excellent bill while in Washington, D.C., both because of its high standard approach to 21st century trade and because of how well it promotes US values on everything from labor to the environment to health and human rights. The bill has passed the Senate and now is awaiting consideration in the House.
Just how important is trade to Washington state? According to a Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle and Washington Council on International Trade study, “An International Competitiveness Strategy for Washington State,” 40 percent of all jobs in Washington state are tied to trade. In 2014, the value of goods exported from our state was a jaw-dropping $90.6 billion. And it isn’t just big firms like Microsoft and Boeing doing all this exporting; in 2013, nearly 90 percent of goods exporters were small- or medium-sized businesses, and 17 percent was from food and agricultural producers.
Washington businesses need TPA now, not next month or next year. Why? Because once TPA is reauthorized, the White House can effectively participate in negotiations currently underway for trade deals that will greatly benefit our state and our country. Successfully finalizing these deals could open up some of the world’s largest and most dynamic markets to U.S. goods and services. Here at home in the Evergreen State we have a lot to gain. If pending Pacific Rim trade deals like the TPP become a reality, states like Washington are poised for signifiant economic growth.
Those who oppose TPA — and by extension, the trade opportunities that it could finalize — fear unsubstantiated consequences for our economy and labor force. But what about the consequences of not having a seat at the table during current trade negotiations rapidly approaching finalization? Instead of leading and helping to set standards for global trade — including environmental and labor standards— we will be on the sidelines. We urge Congress to work together to pass a high standard, 21st century Trade Promotion Authority bill. Don’t let our goods and services, as well as our economy, suffer as those who wisely chose to participate in these trade deals reap the benefits.
Eric Schinfeld is the president of the Washington Council on International Trade. John Stuhlmiller is CEO of the Washington Farm Bureau.