Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
World Affairs Council Washington State and the Seattle Round of the WTO
November 19, 1999
THE SPIRIT OF WASHINGTON; THE SPIRIT OF INNOVATION AND OPENNESS
Thank you for that kind introduction. It’s great to be here today.
I’m proud of our state of Washington. I’m proud Washington has been selected to host the WTO. Washington has long stood as a model for other states. We have established a thriving trade-dependent economy while maintaining a high quality of life for our citizens and protecting our natural resources. Now it’s time for Washington to stand as a model for the world.
But as we all know, the WTO has created quite a stir. These people over here are for it; those people over there are against it. What we see is an unnatural pitting of Washingtonians against each other—we see the possibility of the WTO’s presence dividing us instead of uniting us. But can’t a person be a Microsoft employee and be an activist? Can’t a person be an apple grower and still care about the Amazon’s rainforests? Are these lines really black and white?
Let’s step back for a second and think why it is that we live here in the State of Washington. I think we’ll find there’s a lot more that binds us together than keeps us apart.
For one, we all clearly love what the Northwest has to offer. We love the land. We love the water. We love hiking in the mountains and breathing clean, fresh air. We take pride living in harmony with our natural resources of the Pacific Northwest—of Washington State. So whether you call yourself a machinist or a labor activist or a software programmer or an apple grower—we all share a common core: the love of our land.
I bet those high school kids who are planning walkouts to protest the WTO are simply trying to say: We love the land; we care about the land. They don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of the WTO, but they do understand the guttural passion of loving the Pacific Northwest. And who doesn’t?
But all too often on complex issues, we only see black and white without understanding the gray—the heart of it. So let’s understand the gray. Let’s get down to the “it” that some of us are “for” and some of us are “against.”
The WTO is not a corporation. It’s not a monster or a disease. It’s a consensus group. That’s it. Plain and simple. The WTO is not responsible for regulating the rape or protection of our environment, or whether or not workers’ rights are violated or protected. The WTO is responsible only for promoting fair competition in an open market. That’s it. And Washington State supports a rule-based trading system. No, we require it; we depend on it.
But we all know that trade doesn’t stand alone. Every time a product is manufactured, human lives and our environment are affected. Period.
So this year, at the WTO’s annual meeting, we, the United States of America, are going to present initiatives. We’re going to ask the other members of the WTO to join us in preserving what we consider to be our guiding principles: 1.) The preservation of the quality of the lives of our workers. 2.) And the preservation of our planet.
Our propositions are modest, but very important.
The WTO is a young entity. It is not a monster out to kill dolphins and manacle young children in sweatshop. The WTO is an organization forging new territory, and it’s bound to make mistakes. But we in the Pacific Northwest, of all people, should understand that. We are the innovators, the free spirits, and we, too, are young. So I think it’s critical to recognize that the intentions of the WTO are good—the WTO strives for fair, global, competition. And free and fair trade is imperative to our Washington State. Because of our higher standards in the US and the State of Washington, a level playing field must include environmental and labor standards.
I know a lot of protestors are coming. On the bright side they’ll be purchasing lots of burgers and lattes and shopping in our stores and filling our hotels; they’ll contribute to our economy. But they must also have something to say or they wouldn’t be here. We are confident they will assemble peaceably. And they deserve to be heard. We must listen to every voice because we’re all in this together.
Let’s think back to the early Seventies, 1971, when Boeing experienced that severe crisis and started laying off workers left and right. We can all probably remember that billboard in Seattle. The one that said: Will the last person to leave please turn out the lights? Do you remember that? People were giving up on the State of Washington. Thinking we couldn’t make it as a national force let alone a world force. Well we disproved them.
The Northwest has always been the land of innovation. We are the true vanguards. Our spirit of openness has given birth to more ingenious ideas than anywhere else in the country. Where would we be as a state, as a region, as a country, without Microsoft? Just think. How many families have been reunited by the planes engineered and constructed at Boeing? The innovative open spirit of Washingtonians has influenced the nation. Now let’s infuse the World Trade Organization with that spirit. Let’s help chart the course of the WTO for the new millennium. We can make a difference in the quality of lives and environments throughout the world while ensuring free and fair trade. Let’s accept the challenge, the way we always do.
Thank you very much.