Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Tacoma World Trade Center
July 22, 1997
This is an impressive gathering, for an impressive purpose.
It's impressive to see the leadership of a community come together, create partnerships, commit funds, and actually build the human and institutional infrastructure connections we will need to succeed in the international marketplace.
Operation New Market is the right idea, at the right time, and in the right place.
And this room is filled with the right people to make it a success.
As some of you know, my administration is in the process of developing a new trade and economic development strategy for our state.
Tim Douglas, the Director of our Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, has convened a steering committee composed of key leaders - including Karl Ege, the General Counsel of the Frank Russell Company - to help guide this effort.
So the Tacoma World Trade Center and my administration already have something in common, and that's access to the skills and insights of the Frank Russell Company.
And CTED will have access to more of Pierce County's business expertise, too, because as part of the strategy design process, it will be conducting a focus group with private sector leaders here at the end of this month.
And a few months from now, you can expect to see the result when we roll out a new, focused strategy for helping Washington businesses prepare to compete and win in the 21st century.
Surely the promotion of international trade will be the leading edge of our new strategy.
That's because it's already clear that in the century ahead, international trade will be the engine that pulls the rest of our economy along.
In a state where one out of four jobs depends on international trade and investment, every corner bakery, every auto shop, and every neighborhood grocery store has a stake in the expansion of trade.
And clearly the priority in international trade is doing just what you are doing here in Tacoma - working to increase small and mid-sized businesses' participation in international trade.
I want to talk about four of the key issues our new strategy must address.
The first is, of course, education.
Education is first on my list in every sphere.
But there are special educational concerns that are specific to our ability to succeed in international trade.
The most obvious necessity is a world-class workforce - a workforce that is second to none in its ability to solve problems, communicate, work in teams, and adapt to new technologies and a changing economy.
And while mastery of our own language is the top priority, it's also long past time for us to break out of our national reputation for being hopelessly monolingual.
The kindergarten-to-college telecommunication network we're developing will make it possible for students in Forks and Walla Walla to take Chinese or Japanese or Russian classes-- along with math & science or any other subject -- that originate at the University of Washington or any other school.
We need to make sure that happens, so that any student, of any age, in any part of Washington state, will have access to foreign language instruction.
When I hear people complain that the kids in the Seattle School District speak over 70 languages, I shake my head. That is a challenge, to be sure, but it is also a precious asset.
There's no doubt that all those kids need to master English - and the faster, the better - but I can tell you in all candor that I deeply regret not making a greater effort to hang onto my ability to speak Chinese.
I spoke much better Chinese at the age of four than I do now.
This generation of kids just has to become more comfortable in more languages than we are.
And they must learn more than we were taught in public school about the world outside our borders.
Second, our success in international trade depends on whether we can muster the political will to solve our transportation problems.
Our trade with Asia began just over a hundred years ago, when the railroads first reached Puget Sound - not when ships first reached here.
Our ports thrived because they could move goods quickly and efficiently off of ships and onto those trains for trans-shipment to the Midwest.
And in the next century, the vitality of our ports will continue to depend on our ability to move goods quickly and efficiently to and from our docks.
Our local markets are bigger now than they were a hundred years ago - but they still don't measure up to the size of the local markets surrounding our West Coast competition in Long Beach and Los Angeles.
And that makes it even more critical that we fix our freeways and our rail corridors.
When it takes as long to drive a truck from Redmond to Tacoma as it does to drive it from Tacoma to Portland, our ports and our region's economic health are in serious danger.
Our ability to increase our capacity to move both goods and people is suffering because we are no longer receiving federal funds to build new highways.
The amount of money we have to spend on new transportation projects has also shrunk because of inflation, and because of the cost of maintaining and renovating our roads, bridges, freeways and ferries.
We cannot solve this problem by raiding the general fund of MVET dollars that now help to support our schools and public safety.
And there is far too much at stake to allow this issue to be tied up in knots by those who care more about politics than about practical solutions.
We simply must increase funding for our transportation system without hurting education.
This is an issue that can't be ducked, can't be postponed, and can't be solved without a massive effort to educate the public about what's at stake.
Third, our success in international trade depends on national and international efforts to open markets and reduce barriers to trade and investment.
Washington state must continue to oppose protectionism by demonstrating that embracing international trade rather than fearing it is the surest way to grow family-wage jobs.
The jobs created by expanding international trade pay 46% above the median wage in this state.
That's something more people should know.
More people should also know that NAFTA has generated a net increase of 5,000 jobs in Washington state.
NAFTA, like other measures that reduce trade barriers, makes it simpler to do business across international borders.
This has helped level the playing field for the small and mid-sized businesses that can't afford the high-priced specialists and lawyers that the big companies hire to untangle international red tape.
The logic of open trade becomes more compelling with every passing year, and with every new development in telecommunications.
The world is truly becoming smaller, and the day is long over when there were clear lines of separation between our domestic economy and the world economy.
Equally important, there is an undeniable link between open markets, open societies and open minds.
And the opening of China is without a doubt the biggest story on the world scene today.
Most people don't realize that "most favored nation" trade status is a terrible misnomer.
It ought to be called "normal" trade status, since it's conferred on more than 160 countries in the world.
And the promotion of openness - not isolation - is the best way to foster the development of democracy and human rights in China.
The size and entrepreneurial energy of the Chinese economy is phenomenal.
And the pace of change and growth in East Asia is so rapid that we have a hard time fully comprehending its significance.
The Clinton and Bush administrations have both worked diligently to help more Americans recognize these facts. But the President needs our help.
We here in Washington state do not make national or foreign policy, but we have both the power and the responsibility to affect it by speaking out on these issues.
Because there is no doubt that national foreign and trade policy will profoundly affect us.
Fourth, and finally, we need to be clear about our fundamental purpose.
International trade is more than an economic development strategy that will bring prosperity to our own state.
It is also a way to wage peace, to open minds along with markets, and to both import and export good ideas.
Expanding trade fosters global economic growth that can reduce poverty, and create the conditions in which democracy will flourish.
And it has the potential to help make the next century better than the one that's about to pass into history.
Those of us who live in Washington state have been lucky in many, many ways.
We are lucky to be the home of the Boeing Corporation.
We are lucky to have been blessed with a location that gives us a front-row seat for the Pacific Century.
We are lucky to be the birthplace of Bill Gates.
We are lucky to have a wide array of stunningly beautiful landscapes, a productive and far-sighted agricultural industry, and abundant natural resources.
And we are lucky to have the legacy of those pioneers who built the railroads, ports, and the relationships that have brought us this far.
But luck didn't get us to where we are today. Luck alone won't sustain our success in the coming century.
We have to redouble our efforts - just as you are doing here at the Tacoma World Trade Center - to strengthen our capacity to succeed, and to ensure that our success is shared by everyone in our state.
We must draw our rural areas, our inner cities, and our small and new businesses into the winner's circle and into the growing prosperity of our state.
We must use the expansion of international trade as a vehicle to improve and enrich people's lives, and to expand their horizons.
That long-term goal will be the driver of CTED's economic development strategy design.
That's why our state's strategy - and your work with the Tacoma World Trade Center - require our very best efforts.
And the consultations they engage in with people here in Tacoma will be of special importance to the CTED team, because the economic development agenda we design must be not just my administration's agenda, but this state's agenda.
It must support and complement your efforts, and the work of people like you all across the state.
Our shared purpose is to make Washington a great place to live, work and raise a family.
And that purpose can only be achieved when we work together, as this community is doing, to build on the legacy and the hard work that have brought us this far.
So congratulations to all of you for providing leadership by example to communities across Washington.
And thank you for inviting me to share this wonderful celebration.