Editor’s Note: This post was co-written by Ashley Dutta, Policy & Communication Director at WCIT, and Stefanie Holland, Director of International Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and was posted on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blog.
Members of the Washington Council on International Trade, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, the World Trade Center Tacoma, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County are meeting Wednesday in Tacoma and Everett in Washington state to discuss the outlook for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and how companies can ensure its renewal by Congress.
When it comes to trade negotiations, Congress and the White House must work together to get the best possible deal for U.S. workers, farmers and businesses. For that to happen, TPA is essential: It allows Congress to set negotiating objectives for trade agreements and requires the executive branch to engage in close consultations with legislators throughout the course of trade talks.
Above all, TPA is vital because economic growth and job creation at home depend on our ability sell American goods and services to the 95% of the world’s customers living outside the United States.
In Washington state, international trade is the largest single driver of the economy. Trade supports nearly one million jobs in the state; in fact, trade supports at least 40% of all jobs in Washington.
Among the 50 states, Washington ranks fourth in total exports and third in the number of jobs tied to trade. The state’s exports of goods and services last year topped $100 billion. Washington’s top export markets are the European Union, China, Canada and Japan.
Trade is especially important for Washington’s small businesses, more than 11,000 of which are exporters. While their ranks are growing, smaller companies are disproportionately affected by foreign trade barriers such as discriminatory and burdensome regulations and tariffs.
Just consider these two small businesses that would benefit from new trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):
Port Blakely Tree Farms, located in Tumwater, Washington, is a family-owned, 150-year-old company that produces sustainable forest products. Approximately 30% to 40% of its production is exported to Asian markets, which often pay premiums for high quality logs.
Court Stanley, Port Blakely’s president, sees potential for the firm’s exports to Japan to grow even more if the TPP becomes a reality. Exports have played an important part in the expansion of Port Blakely’s staff, which has grown to 35 permanent, full-time positions in Tumwater.
“Trade Promotion Authority is a prerequisite to clinching new trade deals with both Asia and Europe,” explains Stanley. “On behalf of all of us at Port Blakely, we urge Congress to pass TPA to support new market opportunities for employers in Washington state.”
Neil Jones Food Company, based in Vancouver, Washington, has been processing and packaging tomato and fruit products for several decades. In the past few years, the company has put an emphasis on exporting. Enjoying double-digit export growth, the company now exports to five continents, and its executives are thinking big.
Bahman Dejbod, import and export director at Neil Jones, has hired a number of new employees since the company began exporting to manage the influx of international and domestic business. Other employees have been able to work additional hours and earn more thanks in part to export sales growth.
However, high tariffs and burdensome regulations in countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam make it difficult for Neil Jones’ sales to grow as much as they could. The TPP that the United States is negotiating will help American companies tap these booming markets.
Dejbod explains: “If Congress passes Trade Promotion Authority, the TPP could dismantle these barriers, allowing the company to reach its full potential. For the sake of Washington state’s international competitiveness and future economic growth, let’s renew TPA and seize the benefits of new trade agreements.”
Learn more about TPA renewal at www.uschamber.com/tpa.