Cheerleading for Washington’s Trade Priorities

HMT, Ex-Im, TPA
40% of WA jobs
Depend on trade!

By the time we finished all our meetings with the Washington congressional delegation on our recent WCIT D.C. Fly-In, our pitch on the most pressing trade policy priorities for Washington state began feeling much like a well-practiced cheer. Seventeen WCIT members from diverse industries attended the Fly-In, strengthening our voice and making this year’s Fly-In the most successful ever.

WCIT’s cheerleading team, er D.C. Fly-In attendees

Over the course of two days, we met with seven of our 10 U.S. Representatives and both of our Senators to share with them the top issues we believe Congress can make impact on in the near term: passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank), and reforming the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT).

I thought this would be a great opportunity to provide a little update on these issues to you loyal State of Trade readers, especially for those of you who didn’t attend the Fly-In:

1. Passing TPA will take a strong end-of-year push

Although it is urgent Congress pass TPA in order for the U.S. to negotiate a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), progress on TPA has lost steam since its main proponent, the former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, left the Senate to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China. His replacement, Senator Wyden, has said he is working on modifying the bill and has asked for input on modifications.

While the Washington congressional delegation is strongly supportive of trade, they mentioned how much more often they hear from TPA critics (most of who are concerned about the impacts of TPP) than from TPA supporters.  This means WCIT members have a lot of work to do to ensure our messages about the benefits of a strong trade economy to all Washington residents reach not only our elected officials, but also the public at large.

2. The reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank will once again be a challenge

The Export-Import Bank, the official export credit agency of the United States, will expire on September 30 if Congress does not take action to reauthorize it. Over the last five years Ex-Im has financed $91 billion of Washington exports from 165 companies, over 70 percent of which were small businesses. In 2012 alone the Bank supported an estimated 137,000 Washington jobs. Since all Washington’s key trading partners have export financing agencies of their own, many of which have higher funding levels than the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, our employers simply cannot remain competitive without the Ex-Im Bank’s programs. And yet, there are some in Congress that believe it is a form of corporate welfare that interferes with the free market. Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has said it is time to “exit the Ex-Im Bank.” The members of our Congressional delegation predict it will be the most difficult fight ever to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, and so WCIT will be hard at work over the summer advocating for this critical program that supports so many Washington jobs.

WCIT members discussing trade priorities with Representative Doc Hastings

3. Progress has been made on HMT; more reforms are next

On the second day of the Fly-In, Congress passed the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA), which includes preliminary reforms of the HMT.  WCIT Fly-In attendees even got to watch the Senate pass this historic bill from the gallery! While WRRDA establishes some great first steps to address inequities created by the HMT and to strengthen our ports’ infrastructure, comprehensive reform of the HMT is still needed. The Maritime Goods Movement Act, introduced by Senators Murray and Cantwell in the Senate and Representatives McDermott, Delbene, Heck, Kilmer, Larsen and Smith in the House, would fully address the cargo diversion and inequitable return on investment created by the structure of the HMT.

WCIT members having a roundtable discussion with Senator Cantwell

Overall, we came away from the Fly-In with a sense that our Congressional delegation is engaged and supportive of trade, but that there is even more that WCIT and its members can do to support our trade policy agenda, particularly through sharing stories of businesses across our state that benefit from strong, pro-trade policies.

Of course, all of you who know a thing or two about cheerleading know that it really builds up an appetite.

So if you want a piece of this next year…

Dessert at our Fly-In Dinner at Fogo de Chao

…you’d better come on the Fly-In and join us as we continue cheering for policies that can increase Washington’s international competitiveness!

Thanks to all our sponsors – Northwest Horticultural Council, Washington State Potato Commission, Capitol Strategies, Microsoft, and Boeing for making it possible!

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