Mr. WCIT Goes to Washington

My job as the President of WCIT is to fly to DC and meet with our Congressional delegation (at least that’s part of my job…that and writing clever posts on the State of Trade blog, of course). So why, you might ask, am I going to write a blog post about the fact that I just got back from DC?

It’s not for the reason that you might think, which is that I finally got enough miles again to become an MVP on Alaska Airlines (although that’s also true…early boarding, I’m back!).

No, the reason is that this wasn’t just any trip to DC. It was the annual WCIT DC Fly-in! Each year, the Washington Council on International Trade and its members travel to Washington, DC for a series of meetings with elected officials, Administration officials and other key trade policy stakeholders for the annual WCIT DC Fly-In. This year, the event took place on May 8 & 9, and it was another great opportunity to ensure that federal trade policy has maximum benefit to the international competitiveness of Washington businesses. As you can see from the picture to the right, we had a great group of folks from across the state.

In addition to a generally great day, I had three important take aways that I wanted to make sure you, the loyal State of Trade blog readers, got to hear:

1) I Was Right – Trade Can Be a Bipartisan Issue: When the Korea, Panama and Colombia free trade agreements passed last year, I wrote a celebratory blog post that stated (and I quote):

I don’t have to tell you how difficult things are in Washington, DC right now in terms of partisanship and gridlock. We can’t even get annual appropriations bills passed, much less major pieces of legislation to address significant economic, social and political issues – from climate change to immigration reform. Yet, in that same environment, we’re about to see broad bipartisan support for the most significant trade agreement in the last 15 years.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, on the day of the Fly-in, the House of Representatives voted 330-93 in favor of the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. It’s hard for the House to get 330 votes in favor of taking a break for dinner, much less major legislation, and so the significance of this vote shows that there is opportunity for broad support for trade policy. By the way, coincidence that the House suddenly decides to pass Ex-Im Bank reauthorization on the day that we show up in support? You decide.

2) There’s Still Plenty of Educating and Communicating to Be Done: Since I’m quoting my past genius today, here’s another State of Trade blog post I did last fall entitled “What I Learned in DC: It’s Time to Get Business More Engaged in Trade.” What I said then – and what we heard loud and clear from several members of our Congressional delegation this past Wednesday – is that there is still a huge lack of understanding of the benefits of trade, particularly on the importance of imports to our economy. And the Congressional delegation would like to see a strong, broad communications effort to educate people on these benefits. Of course, that’s a big part of WCIT’s job and we’re working to find new and powerful ways to do just that.

3) We’ve Got a Lot Left to Do This Year, and We’re Running Out of Time to Do It: In each of our meetings, members of the WCIT Fly-in group went around and shared some of their top trade priorities for the year, and their list matched many of WCIT’s 2012 policy priorities: permanent normal trade relations with Russia, a solution to the diversionary effects of the Harbor Maintenance Tax, lower tariffs on high performance outdoor wear…just to name a few. Yet, with the Presidential election season approaching fast and limited days left in the legislative schedule, it’s hard to see how we can fit it all in this year. And don’t say “well, there’s always the lame duck period” (the period between November elections and the end of the year). With budget battles, sequestration and a host of other issues, lame duck is mostly spoken for. Which means that we can’t pause to pat ourselves on the back after Ex-Im reauthorization. It’s immediately on to the next; June alone will feature a House hearing on Russia PNTR and the release of the Federal Maritime Commission’s HMT inquiry.

Of course, I can’t end a blog post about the WCIT DC Fly-in without thanking everyone who made it a great day: the WCIT members who participated, our elected officials who took the time to meet with us, the Administration officials and trade policy stakeholders that joined us for various portions of our agenda, and our sponsors – the Microsoft Corporation, Monument Policy Group and the NW Horticultural Council. It was  a great event, and next year should be even better. Although, with three new members of the Washington Congressional delegation coming into office next year, we’re going to have our work cut out for us…

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