With the Washington Trade Conference (formerly the WCIT Senators’ Conference) coming up on November 21, I wanted to make sure that the loyal readers of the State of Trade blog knew all the great reasons to consider attending. OK, well, maybe I won't give you ALL the reasons (there's hundreds of them, of course). How about the top five: 5) The Registration Page is Actually Working! Apparently, our website was down for a few days last week when you were all trying to register. Awkward! But we’re open for business now (you might have to refresh your browser once). 4) Everyone Else is Coming, So Should You! After adding our fourth sponsor last week (welcome, UPS!) and two more promotional partners (welcome, Bellevue and Tacoma chambers!), we’re on track to bring together 200 businesses from across the state to discuss trade policy and develop a shared federal trade agenda. Don’t be left out! 3) You’ll Hear from Business Leaders from Across the State! The Washington Trade Conference will feature three exciting panel discussions by Washington business leaders on federal trade issues that will have you on the edge of your seat:
  • Next Steps for Free Trade: TPP, Russia WTO & the US OUTDOOR Act
  • Improving Washington’s Trade Climate: Visa Entry Reform, Financial Services Policy & Global Health and Development
  • A Federal Agenda for Port Competitiveness in Washington State
2) We Passed the FTAs; Now What? If that’s a question that’s keeping you up at night (or just something you’ve been casually wondering about), this is the conference for you. Through our speakers and panels, we’ll delve into the next major trade policy opportunities – from Russia to Vietnam, from Harbor Maintenance Tax to Travel Visa Reform – that can help Washington’s economy grow. And the number one reason to attend the Washington Trade Conference?

And not only because that's actually the date. Today is the date that - after years of delay and sometimes hopelessness - the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama & Colombia passed the United States Congress! We'll be referencing this day for years to come, because the passage of these free trade agreements is a big deal. It's a big deal for our state's economy (more than 10,000 jobs created because of these FTAs) and for a wide variety of industries within our state's economy ($52 million alone in increased agricultural exports, a reduction on roasted coffee tariffs from 30% to zero, new opportunities for IT, aerospace and services). But in many ways, it's an even bigger deal for what it means politically and for the future of trade policy.

I had a great trip to Washington, DC last week (which you know already if you followed the hashtag #WCITinDC along the way). And what you've all been wondering...the question that's been keeping you up at night...is "What was Eric's number one take away from his meetings with the Washington Congressional delegation!?!?" Well, sleep peacefully tonight, loyal followers of the State of Trade blog, because I'm happy to share. And I can summarize it in one sentence: Our Congressional delegation needs to hear from business on trade much more than they do right now.

In my last post on WCIT's policy priorities - cleverly titled, as always - I mentioned that today's post would be focused on visa reform. No, not credit cards...I'm talking about entry visas into the United States from places like China, India and Brazil. This is a huge issue for international tourism specifically - and international business generally - for reasons that, well, I'm about to tell you about. The great news (for me) is that writing this post is going to be easy...and I love easily written blog posts...because two very exciting things happened in the past week: 1) I had a great meeting with the US Travel Association when I was in DC and 2) the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau published an op-ed in the Seattle Times on this topic. So now all I have to do is quote those folks and "presto!": another great State of Trade blog post.