International Trade…Don’t Just Take My Word For it!

Do y’all remember the PBS show Reading Rainbow? The host, LeVar Burton, would talk about his book recommendations, and then say “But you don’t have to take my word for it”…and the show would cut to videos of children making their own testimonials for those books.

That’s exactly what I thought of when I saw these fantastic new videos from the Washington Department of Commerce promoting exporting by our state’s companies. (Yes, I know that my mind works in strange ways).

Rather than just a bunch of policy folks like me talking about how important international trade is, you’ve got companies like Stemilt Growers, Janicki Industries and Swype, all saying how it’s vital to their business. And it’s lost on no one that those companies represent a broad diversity of industries: from apples to manufacturing to high tech. It’s all part of the Washington State Export Initiative, our state’s response to President Obama’s goal of doubling exports through the National Export Initiative.

The reason I think these videos are so important is that so few companies export (4% in Washington, which is better than the overall 2% U.S. average) so we need to show them that it’s not some scary thing that only Boeing does. Rather, foreign markets are just like any other market that you are trying to sell your product to – with just a small added complication that you may need to negotiate different languages, currencies and the metric system. OK, some of those aren’t that small, but they’re definitely doable, particularly with the wide array of services and support available to help you do so. And then, if there are any policy barriers to exporting, well…that’s what WCIT’s here for.

One last thought. These videos are great for trying to promote exporting to companies, but they don’t accomplish one of the other important goals I have for our state: getting the general public to appreciate how vital trade is to our economy. I mean, we’ve got old stats (1 in 3 jobs tied to trade) and the title of “the most trade-dependent state in the country” but most people go about their day assuming that they’re not really impacted by trade. So, I’d love to do a campaign (including some viral video and other social media) to really get people thinking about both exports and imports as key to their livelihoods…whether they’re aerospace machinists or bakers or doctors. It might get people thinking a lot differently when they read the newspaper about free trade agreements or hear some politician promote protectionism.

So, look out for that in the future someday. But, in the meantime, enjoy these Commerce videos on exporting. Which is a great thing for businesses. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

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