Editor’s Note: WCIT is pleased to welcome our next guest blogger, Michael Messina, Sr. International Trade Consultant for Desh International Law, to the State of Trade blog. WCIT’s guest blogger series features posts by experts on diverse international trade policy issues impacting Washington state’s international competitiveness.
We hear a great deal about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with the Asia-Pacific region, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the EU and the benefits that these free trade agreements can bring for Washington companies moving goods in and out of other countries. Yet there is another trade agreement out there that we hear much less about, even though it has potentially more benefit for employers in Washington than just about any other state in the country.
Last year at about this time, I wrote about USTR beginning negotiations on what has now become known as the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA is targeted at leveling the playing field for U.S. services exports. Services exports, which include things like software, mobile apps, consulting, financial and architectural services, all hold very strong positions across Washington state’s business landscape. In 2012, Washington businesses exported $24 billion in services, and most recent data has the services sector continuing to hold the lead as the fastest growing sector of the state’s economy.
Unlike trade in goods, where the U.S. runs at a deficit with its trading partners, trade in services accounts for a $160 billion surplus. This is impressive – and it could be even better. Services companies can face significant non-tariff barriers in the form of nationality requirements that prevent companies from investment opportunities overseas, restricted access to visas for professionals to travel to perform a service, and restrictions on data flows that limit consumers’ choices. TiSA aims to resolve those discrepancies. For Washington state, more software and mobile app downloads unfettered by data flow restrictions, more technology and e-commerce companies being able to make acquisitions in other countries, and more professional services firms being able to open up practices in other nations, all result in increased services exports. Even Boeing, Washington’s largest exporter of tangible goods, offers an array of professional aerospace services and would benefit from the passage of TiSA.
TiSA negotiations kicked off last year and the agreement has been quietly moving forward, with the fifth round of negotiations having just been completed four weeks ago in Geneva. Like the TPP and TTIP, TiSA is being framed as a high-standard agreement, with sections addressing e-commerce, intellectual property, and data protocols designed to reflect standards for the 21st century. In discussing progress with USTR, I learned a few interesting things:
1) That the agreement is considered to be on-track toward completion in the next two years;
2) That TPP, TTIP and TiSA are more inter-related than you might think. If particular elements of the TPP aren’t able to be pushed through prior to completion, USTR will work to incorporate them into TTIP and TiSA so that they might still be applicable in some markets; and
3) USTR will still listen to stakeholder comments.
There’s an opportunity here with that last one. TiSA is still open to your input. Whether you’re joining WCIT for their DC Fly-In or making direct contact, let our congressional delegation know that TiSA is as important as TPP and TTIP. There is a great deal of benefit to our state with the passage of TiSA, and these benefits extend across multiple sectors. Particularly here in Washington, it really shouldn’t take a back seat to TPP and TTIP.
Michael Messina is the Sr. International Trade Consultant for Desh International Law (www.deshlaw.com), a WCIT member firm. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 947-0353.