Trade Policy News Round-Up: LA Regional Export Council

I don’t know if you can call a month-old article “news”, but give me a break…I’ve been a little busy putting on the hugely successful Washington Trade Conference! So I’m going to give myself an extended statute of limitations to talk about this “recent” press release announcing the creation of the Los Angeles Regional Export Council.

There’s lots of reasons why Washington state and the Puget Sound region should care about this…and, by “care about this”, I mean “increasingly support our own region’s work to coordinate export promotion through the Trade Development Alliance.”

The basics of the LAXC (they actually use the acronym LARExC, but mine is better) are these:

“This public-private partnership will streamline the region’s export support systems by creating a single entry point for businesses interested in selling goods and services abroad. It will create a one-stop regional export web resource to connect small- and medium-sized businesses to the right export services. The Export Council will focus on firms that are already exporting, or have the capacity to start exporting, and will target a dozen key growth industries– everything from fashion apparel to food processing to clean tech. The Export Council is a collaboration of regional export service organizations including seven key partners: The Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Centers for International Trade Development (CITD), the USC Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), the UCLA Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), the Port of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles World Airports.”

Pretty straightforward stuff, right? “One stop shopping”, “coordinated activity” and “focus on export-ready SMEs” are the buzzwords of export promotion efforts, and most of the same work is already being developed by the Washington State Department of Commerce as part of the Washington State Export Initiative.

What catches my eye about this effort is its regional nature. From that same release: “During his remarks on Monday, Mayor Villaraigosa recognized the Brookings Institution and its Metropolitan Export Initiative for understanding that the export promotion goals articulated by President Obama on the national level can only be achieved if metro economies like Los Angeles make a concerted effort to pursue export promotion locally.” (emphasis added)

Now, I’m not advocating that the Puget Sound duplicate the efforts of State Commerce’s work, but our region has an important role to play with its complementary activities…just like I’m sure that the state of California has export promotion efforts that are complemented by LAXC’s (Ok, fine…by LARExC’s). Here are three of the top Trade Development Alliance functions that are so valuable.

First, is the creation and promotion of a Puget Sound-specific brand. Former Trade Development Alliance president Bill Stafford just wrote about the importance of a regional brand to trade development in Crosscut, and TDA is undertaking an effort to refresh that brand. A strong Puget Sound brand helps the state attract new business, and can fill in the gaps where the state is not working (like tourism promotion).

Second, TDA involves a number of regional stakeholders that aren’t currently engaged at the state level, just like LA’s idea of bringing together the Chamber, the Port, the City and the University opens up tremendous opportunities for expanded reach to a wide variety of businesses. The Seattle Metro Chamber (of which TDA is an affiliate) has more then 2200 members alone, and TDA is also collaborating with industry-specific trade associations (like WBBA) who have broad reach into industries with significant trade capacity.

Finally, TDA helps leverage additional resources toward these efforts. The State Department of Commerce recently received a $1.6 million STEP grant, but that only staunches the bleeding as they watch most of their state funding erode…particularly their funding to promote exports, like their foreign sales consultants. The more that the Puget Sound can add public-private resources to the cause, the more likely that a significant impact can be made in terms of increasing the number of Washington businesses engaged in trade.

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