There’s many reasons that trade matters to Washington state. The jobs, the economic impact, the access to new markets for local businesses and the access to products from around the world for local residents – like coffee.

Coffee? Of course, you say. We know that coffee beans aren’t grown in Washington state, yet some of the largest coffee retailers in the world are located in our state – Starbucks, Tully’s, Green Mountain (they have a manufacturing and distribution facility in Sumner). They can exist here because of trade – importing supplies in and then exporting finished products throughout the world. (Especially now that the Colombia FTA is passed, making it easier to import Colombian coffee beans.)

But it doesn’t end there. Trade literally allows you to pick up your latte…now that Starbucks is apparently using shipping containers as drive-thru cafes.

I’ve been noticing a trend over the past five years – driven in part by environmental reasons, in part by affordability – of using shipping containers for alternative purposes. There’s commercial buildings in south Seattle, and I remember reading about a bunch of artist live-work space units in Colorado a couple years ago. But I love the idea of using a shipping container that may have been used to bring a product here to then serve that product. It would be like if a container was used as a restaurant in China where people went to eat Washington apples.

One of the great advantages of this Starbucks shipping container drive-thru is that it’s going to remind people where their coffee came from. Too often, we don’t think about how we got the bounty of products we have access to – from cell phones to clothes to out-of-season fruits – which makes it easier for people to forget why trade matters so much…and that we need to support policies to increase our state’s international competitiveness.

So, essentially, this drive-thru is doing the work of WCIT. Thanks, Starbucks!