A Seattle Summer Tradition: the WCIT Summer Luncheon

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by WCIT’s policy & communications intern, Ishani Ummat. Ishani is currently studying international business, finance and global health at the University of Washington, and we are thrilled to have her working with us over the next few months!

Nothing is certain about a Seattle summer. One day it’s 90 degrees, the next it’s cold and rainy. One day the Mariners are a playoff team, the next they’re getting shut out. Nothing is for certain –  that is, except the annual WCIT Summer Luncheon!

Every July, WCIT gathers business and community leaders from across the state to discuss the top issues in trade policy. Last week was no different, with 177 Washington business leaders in attendance at the WAC to hear from Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs, Claire Reade, about US-China trade policy.

It’s no secret that Washington state has a special relationship with China. In fact, China is often referred to as the state’s most important global trading partner; it’s the number one destination for our exports, second largest source of our imports, and fastest growing source of tourists. Our exports to China grew a whopping 500% from 2004 to 2013! However, there are quite a few issues to be addressed with regard to creating a more efficient, effective trade flow.

After opening remarks from our sponsors – the Boeing Company and Nyhus Communications – Nyhus Communications’ Marc Berger conducted a “fireside chat”-style interview with AUSTR Reade and helped us all understand some of the barriers surrounding trade and investment with China.

Three of the biggest concerns discussed were:

1)      Intellectual property rights

2)      Market access barriers

3)      Investment policies

There is enormous opportunity to be tapped in these markets, but the current trade restrictions in China are limiting some of our businesses’ potential growth in that market. According to AUSTR Reade, a lot of progress has been made in recent dialogues with the Chinese, especially as they begin to open up their market a bit more and become more responsive to our requests and recommendations. Yet in order to continue effectively addressing these issues, we must take a systematic, unified approach to make a difference in China trade policy and advocate for a system that creates a smooth trade flow. It’s important that we:

–          Focus on the Information Technology Agreement – which would eliminate tariffs on IT products, and benefit many of the IT companies in Washington state

–          Pay attention to customs and regulatory barriers – businesses need to be aware of the smaller issues that come up, seemingly out of nowhere, in the Chinese market

–          Utilize opportunities for focused dialogue on trade priorities–  The JCCT and S&ED (that is, U.S-China Joint Commission on Commerce and the Trade and Strategic and Economic Dialogue, for those of you still rusty on the acronyms) and WTO offer opportunities for representatives across all U.S. government agencies to share unified, persistent messages about trade barriers that can influence China’s policy decisions

After AUSTR Reade’s remarks, Port of Seattle Commissioner Courtney Gregoire talked about the Washington state perspective on U.S.-China trade and its importance to our economy. And then WCIT President Eric Schinfeld made a joke about cookies. True story! Specifically, our new logo reveal (check it out here) and logo-shaped cookies gave him the perfect opportunity to remind everyone to “internalize the new WCIT logo” and attendees went home happy with some extra sugar to boot!

Thanks again to our sponsors, Nyhus Communications and the Boeing Company, all of the attendees and our wonderful guest speakers. See you next summer for what is becoming a bigger and better tradition each year!

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