Apr 18, 2014 - 3:45pm

It Starts with the State: Organization Drives Support for Trade

trade by Patrick T. Fallon.JPG

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon for Bloomberg

While most policies that impact U.S. trade are set at the federal level, driving support for federal policies that could increase our country’s international competitiveness starts with advocacy at the local and state level. One of the U.S. Chamber’s partner organizations is doing just that by educating the public and elected officials in Washington state about the economic value of international trade.

The Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) advocates on behalf of Washington state employers engaged in the global marketplace for pro-trade policies and investments that protect and grow the 40% of jobs in the state tied to trade.

The organization’s 94 diverse members include manufacturers, retailers, farmers & ranchers and service providers from across the state. It’s this diversity of membership that gives the organization its strength—when state employers from so many industries speak about trade policy issues with one voice, elected officials take notice.

Recently WCIT’s efforts have focused on encouraging Washington state’s congressional delegation and the public to support renewing the president’s Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast-track.

Through direct outreach to the 12 members of Washington’s congressional delegation, hosting roundtables with members of the delegation and WCIT members, and conducting communication campaigns, WCIT has been getting the message out about why TPA is important to Washington state and the nation.

Mark Powers of the Northwest Horticultural Council, the industry association for tree fruit like apples, pears and cherries, says, “The Northwest Horticultural Council has been working with WCIT to advocate for renewing TPA because doing so will increase the competitiveness of Washington tree fruit exports by eliminating trade barriers affecting sales of Washington tree fruit in foreign markets. For example, the first year the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement was passed and the tariff on cherries was eliminated, sales of cherries to Korea increased 86%, creating jobs all along the value chain of harvesting, packing and transporting fruit for export. Washington state fruit growers need more trade agreements so they can expand sales to the 95% of the world’s customers who live outside the United States.”

Despite selling their premium running shoes in 60 countries around the world, Seattle-based Brooks Sports Inc. isn't resting on its' heels when it comes to trade. "Our international sales will be much greater if Congress renews such measures as the TPA and passes new, high-standard free trade agreements," says Kevin Gosney, Vice-President, Global Supply Chain. "As we increase our sales abroad, we can also grow jobs at our headquarters in Washington state. In addition, free trade agreements will facilitate our use of global supply chains, enabling us to manufacture the highest quality running shoes at a lower landed cost for runners by lowering tariffs on imported footwear.”

Likewise, Jim Gilmore of At-Sea Processors Association, the trade association representing companies that own and operate  U.S.-flag catcher/processor vessels, notes, “Washington state fishermen and processors participate in fisheries that account for more than half of all seafood landed annually in the U.S.  A significant portion of the fish products coming out of these fisheries are exported, principally to EU and Asian nations. Passage of TPA is a critical to concluding trade agreements with those markets and keeping Washington state’s seafood industry globally competitive.”

WCIT is working to bring stories like this directly to Washington’s congressional delegation and other elected officials so that they understand the vital role trade plays in creating jobs and growing the state’s economy.

Driving state-wide support of trade policy priorities like TPA sets a foundation for increasing national support for an ambitious U.S. trade agenda that can enable the United States to increase its international competitiveness and thrive in the global economy.

(Read more on why trade is a big deal for small businesses