I tried to think of a clever title for this blog post celebrating Monday’s fantastic and SOLD OUT Washington Trade Conference, but I’m so out of practice. My last few posts have all been Trade Conference advertisements like the uncleverly -but accurately – titled “JUST ANNOUNCED: Canadian Trade Minister to Speak at Washington Trade Conference.” Now that the Trade Conference is over, I promise to get back to the clever and insightful posts that you’ve come to know and love from the State of Trade Blog, like “From Russia, With Love (of Tariffs)” or “You Down with TPP? (Yeah, You Know Me!)“.
But before I do, let’s take a trip down memory lane and recount the great event that was the 2011 Washington Trade Conference.
The conference opened with U.S. Representative Jay Inslee, who gave a great rundown of not only why he thought that trade mattered to Washington state, but also some clear opportunities for moving forward on policies that would give our state a unique competitive advantage (like trade in clean tech and biotech). He was follow by a panel that included Boeing, REI and the NW Horticultural Council (who represents apples, cherries and pears in our state), which highlighted even more of the key policy opportunities from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Russia WTO accession to the US OUTDOOR Act and Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization.
Canadian Trade Minister Jon Allen spoke next, talking about the incredible trade relationship between our two countries (about $8 billion a day or $1.2 million a minute!), and in particular between Canada and Washington state. He did touch on the controversy surrounding the Harbor Maintenance Tax, which lead nicely into the next panel – the heads of the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Moses Lake and Bellingham. They discussed HMT, but also the need for a national freight strategy. The final morning panel was a diverse one: speakers from Russell Investment, the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau, Sightlife and SIGN; they talked about some of the service exports from our state (finance, tourism and global health) which can’t be forgotten about…and which have policy opportunities of their own, like travel visa reform.
The event closed with a bang, starting with an address from U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and then a panel discussion between U.S. Representatives McDermott, Reichert, Larsen and Smith. They all discussed the need for strong coalitions to support trade policy progress, particularly in the face of difficult political opposition. A packed house of more than 275 people were there throughout the day to observe all of it, and special thanks to our sponsors: the Boeing Company, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma and UPS.
It was a great event, with great speakers, great discussion and a good kickoff to WCIT’s rejuvenation. If you missed it, you can also check out the comments on Twitter from attendees, via #watradeconf, and the event coverage in the Seattle Times and Puget Sound Business Journal. Plus all the pictures from the event!
As I mentioned in my remarks at the event, the trade policies that we discussed at the Conference are some of the best chances we have to increase jobs and economic prosperity in Washington state…but we must all work together to advocate for these mutually beneficial priorities in order to ensure their successful passage. The Washington Council on International Trade strives to be the axis around which the state business community can engage, energize and focus our collective efforts in this regard. If you have thoughts on the Conference, ways to improve it for next year, or would like to discuss how you can become more engaged in our work, please feel free to contact me directly. Can’t wait for the 2012 Washington Trade Conference, which will be even bigger and better!