Crosscut Picks up the International Trade = International Business Theme

Three weeks on the job, two profiles in the news. First the Puget Sound Business Journal and now Not too shabby.

But what I like about the Crosscut article is not just the opportunity to stare at my own headshot. Although, hey, nice smile. Instead, I think the article does a nice job of laying out out some of the key issues that our region and state face in the effort to ensure a strong, pro-trade policy environment. Your beloved State of Trade blog has already referenced many of these same issues: the limitations of trade data in terms of services and software, the resistance to increased trade from groups that fear the loss of American jobs…and, my personal favorite, the lack of understand that trade isn’t just things that go in containers that go on ships.

It’s right there in the first few paragraphs of the article:

Trade is important here, there is no getting around that. More than 70 percent of Boeing jets are exported – the easiest example of foreign trade. Other Washington exports are less obvious. More than half of Microsoft’s software is exported, although the fact is often lost in trade statistics because of the way software is counted. There is also a huge trade in services based in the Seattle area from architects, environmental service firms, and global health initiatives. Even those foreign students contribute about $350 million annually to the regional economy in the form of tuition and other spending.

And, of course, my quote reinforces the idea: “Five year plans?…Success, [Schinfeld] says, will be measured by increased understanding by the electorate and officials of the link between international business and international trade.”

The more and more I think about this “theme,” the more important it is. Not only because we need to understand our international trade economy in order to best advocate for policies that benefit it (or rather to advocate for policies that benefit it the most). But because, if the US is shifting toward a more service-based economy, we have to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make that service economy as vibrant as possible…which includes international trade policies that maximize our competitiveness selling these services overseas.

And this isn’t a “death of American manufacturing” kind of thing. At the end of the day, this is all about jobs. This country is still exporting a significant amount, and certainly Washington state is one of the leaders of the pack in manufacturing exports thanks to our aerospace impact. But, like it says in the National Association of Manufacturers study that the Crosscut article also quotes, we are so innovative and productive that – in 2010 – the average American factory worker produced 41 percent more than a decade ago. So even if we double our manufacturing exports through smart policy and good technical assistance, that’s not going to be enough to get unemployment down to comfortable levels. We need to significantly increase our service exports too…and our foreign direct investment attraction…and our international students and tourists…and global health activity…and international financing.

You get the idea. Thanks again, Crosscut, for the great profile of WCIT. And, as they say, more on this anon.

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