Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
World Trade Club
June 12, 2002
Thank you for that kind introduction.
I’m glad to be here this evening to talk about the importance of global trade, which we all know is a main pillar of Washington’s economy.
As we work our way out of this recession -- which is proving especially painful to our state -- we’re all looking for strong and growing international trade as the key to a renewed and thriving economy. Healthy international trade -- along with a solution to this state’s serious transportation mess -- offer us the best chance for sustained economic growth as we dig our way out of this downturn.
Importance of Trade
Here’s just one fact to illustrate just how vital international trade is to the United States as a whole, not to mention the state of Washington. More than 96 percent of the potential customers for U.S products and services can be found in foreign markets…96 percent!
Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the nation, so Washington stands to benefit the most when we -- and the rest of the nation -- capture these new customers. Even now, the importance of international trade to Washington State cannot be overstated.
Last year, our companies exported $35 billion worth of goods. For the average Washington citizen, this adds up to one word -- Jobs. One in three jobs in the state is directly or indirectly related to trade (exports and imports combined), and export-dependent jobs pay at least 13 percent to 18 percent more than the national average.
When we talk about international trade, we tend to think of Boeing. It is true that Boeing is the largest exporter in the country. But international trade is extremely important to other sectors of Washington’s economy also. Those sectors include such high technology industries such as medical products, industrial machinery, electrical equipment, telecommunications and software.
Of course, exports are also vital to our natural resource-based industries including agriculture, paper and lumber, and wood products.
Connection to Trade Policy
Given that global trade is the lifeblood of Washington, I have supported and will continue to support, international trade agreements to improve market access for Washington products and services around the world. More than two years ago, Governor Schaefer of North Dakota and I spear-headed a bipartisan letter to the congressional leadership -- signed by most state governors and four territorial governors -- endorsing Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China.
Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China is essential to ensure that U.S. exporters capitalize on the market-access concessions agreed to by China as part of the country’s entry into the World Trade Organization.
I also support the new round of WTO negotiations. And I supported the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and the bilateral trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. These agreements will spur our state’s economy. They will open up a wide variety of commercial opportunities for Washington companies, farmers and workers.
Unfortunately, the ability of the United States to complete these trade agreements has been severely hurt by the President’s lack of Trade Promotion Authority. In the meantime, our competitors have not been idle. They are aggressively pursuing trade agreements without the participation of the United States.
As a result, there are currently more than 134 free-trade agreements in force throughout the world, but the United States is a party to just three of them. (NAFTA, Israel and Jordan.) By contrast, the European Union has 27 free trade agreements already in force and has at least 15 more on its negotiating agenda.
The reality is that the trade preferences our competitor nations enjoy through these trade agreements means lost exports and jobs for Washington companies, farmers and workers every day. For example, Washington exports of apples to Costa Rica have declined by half this year. That’s because of the duty free market access obtained by Chile for its apple exports under the country’s recent bilateral trade agreement with Costa Rica.
Similarly, Washington state frozen French-fry exports to Chile have essentially been eliminated by the tariff preferences Canada received under its bilateral trade agreement with Chile.
I have highlighted several agricultural examples because the industry has been hit especially hard, and really needs more access to overseas markets. However, trade promotion authority is also critical to non-agricultural exporters. The passage of Trade-Promotion-Authority by Congress will lead to an ambitious trade agenda that will give our economy a lift by opening up markets around the world to our products and services.
I’ve talked about how much international trade means for Washington’s workers. And it means a lot. But let’s not forget that increased imports can also lead to job losses in some sectors of our economy. The main cause of job losses in this country has not been trade. It has been technological change and down-swings in the business cycle.
Whatever the cause, though, this nation needs an agenda that expands the “winners circle” to help workers gain the skills in our rapidly changing economy. And an essential piece of that agenda is the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps workers displaced by trade to acquire new skills and find new jobs.
I am especially pleased that the trade bill the Senate recently passed significantly expands Trade Adjustment Assistance and health care assistance for workers that have been displaced by foreign trade. It is also important that the Trade Promotion Authority legislation that eventually emerges from the Senate and House negotiations addresses environmental protection and workers rights to ensure that the investment provisions of international trade agreements cannot be used to weaken environmental and health laws and regulations.
The passage of the trade bill by the Senate is a major step forward toward final approval of T-P-A. I urge the Senate and House to move quickly so that the President can be provided with Trade Promotion Authority.
Just as important as the passage of Trade Promotion Authority at the federal level, is passage at the state level of a transportation package to rejuvenate Washington’s economy. More vigorous international trade will do us little good without an improved transportation system right here at home.
Quite simply, goods coming into and leaving our ports have to travel on a state transportation system built for the 1970s, not for the 21st century. Without freight mobility, our trade competitiveness suffers and will continue to suffer.
I urge each and every one of you to vote for Referendum 51 in November. This measure provides $7.8 billion for much needed transportation investments to help unclog our roads and help our freight move quickly to save time and money. The revenue to be raised by this referendum will be used for transportation, and nothing but transportation.
We need to make the improvements. Our economy depends on it. Among other things, the referendum would improve getting goods to the Port of Seattle/Tacoma far more quickly. The measure also would improve State Route 509 to provide far better southerly access to SeaTac.
This is the most critical issue facing our state. Please support Referendum 51, and ask your friends and co-workers to do the same.
Again, thank you for inviting me here tonight.
- World Trade Club