A Sweet Deal – The Northwest Cherry Charter and Washington-China Trade Relations

One of the questions that I sometimes hear when traveling around the state of Washington is “What does 50 tons of Washington cherries look like?” I was never sure why people asked me this, since I’m a trade policy person, not a giant pile of fruit expert, but those two things finally came together a couple of weeks ago when WCIT staff were present to help celebrate the inaugural flight of the “Northwest Cherry Charter.” The new China Eastern air cargo service will haul over 50 tons of much-sought-after Washington cherries to China each week.

The plane gets a water cannon salute to celebrate its inaugural flight

Executives from China Eastern Airlines joined Washington state government officials, cherry growers and Boeing representatives at Sea-Tac Airport to officially launch the cherry charter partnership (which is quite literally a sweet deal!).

A big bunch of cherries ready for sampling at the NW Cherry Charter celebration!

The Northwest Cherry Charter, loaded with delicious cherries, is a great symbol of Washington’s strong and growing trade ties with China. China is Washington state’s number one trading partner, and $16.7 billion of Washington exports went to China last year. Clearly cherries aren’t the only Washington state product Chinese consumers are eagerly snatching up. Washington wine, airplanes, dairy, and software are all examples of Washington products experiencing healthy sales in China. In addition, Chinese tourists are flocking to Washington state; Seattle saw a 45% increase in Chinese tourists from 2012 to 2013, and the number is expected to increase over 154% over the next four years.

While our state does have a close trade relationship with China, there are still many barriers that prevent the relationship from being as strong as it could be. IP infringements, Chinese cybersecurity threats, discrimination against foreign firms and a host of other market access barriers prevent many Washington state businesses from competitively engaging in trade with China. Here at WCIT, we’re working to identify the top trade policy issues that Washington employers are facing in China and to develop an advocacy action plan to address these issues.

In fact, we’ll be discussing Washington state’s trade policy challenges with China in depth next month, when Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (AUSTR) for China Affairs, Claire Reade, joins us as the keynote speaker at the WCIT Summer Luncheon. AUSTR Reade will share her insights on U.S.-China trade policy developments and will discuss ways that Washington state employers can increase their competitiveness in trade with China. If your company is engaged in business with China, you don’t want to miss this informative event, so register now!

As the Northwest Cherry Charter flies out of the SeaTac Airport each week, it can serve as a special reminder that our trade with China can “fly high” if we utilize smart trade policy advocacy to resolve outstanding trade issues.  For example, WCIT and the Washington State China Relations Council engaged with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative when China instituted bans on West Coast shellfish, which are now lifted. With continued efforts we hope to see more “sweet deals” that increase Washington’s competitiveness in trade with China very soon!

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