WCIT’s Dream Lunch with USTR Michael Froman

Has anyone ever asked you, “If you could have dinner (or lunch) with anyone in the world, who would it be?” It’s always kind of a fun exercise to daydream about meeting rock stars, actors, role models, inventors, CEOs, etc. Who would you pick?

Well, WCIT had our wish come true last week when we got to have lunch with the nation’s top international trade policy official, the U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman. It’s not every day that WCIT gets to host the U.S. Trade Representative, and we were beyond excited to have the privilege of putting together a luncheon for him.

Many other Washingtonians must have felt as giddy with excitement as WCIT did to meet the USTR, because 130 business and community leaders flocked to the luncheon. People drove from as far as Yakima, Pullman and Spokane just to catch a glimpse of Ambassador Froman and hear his insights on current issues in international trade policy affecting Washington state.

Ambassador Froman spoke on two of WCIT’s 2014 policy priorities: completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and successfully negotiating a Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP). For those of you who couldn’t make it, you can watch the entire event here, but if you aren’t as big a trade policy nerd as I am and don’t want to watch the entire 45 minute program, here’s a quick summary:

Completing the TPP and TTIP is about more than lowering tariffs: Ambassador Froman stressed that once the U.S. signs trade agreements with TPP countries and the EU, we will have free trade with an astounding 2/3 of the global economy; however, eliminating tariffs is not what makes these agreements so special. These 21st century trade agreements are unprecedented because they focus on raising global trade standards, such as IP, digital trade, labor and environmental standards, as well as leveling the playing field by addressing non-tariff barriers and unfair competition like state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Ambassador Froman noted that if the U.S. is left out of these trade agreements, these high standards will be left out, too. Through negotiating the highest-standard, most progressive trade agreements in history, the U.S. can play a vital leadership role in ensuring that free trade is also fair trade.

These trade agreements could be a key to economic growth: USTR Froman noted that a successful TPP alone would raise U.S. exports by an estimated $125 billion a year, which would result in tremendous U.S. job creation. Since we know that export-related jobs pay 13 to 18% more than non-export-related jobs, this would be a huge win for the U.S. economy. The Ambassador remarked that TTIP and TPP would be a way to rejuvenate U.S. manufacturing and make sure the U.S. is a “production platform of the world.”

Washington state has a lot to gain from TPP & TTIP: As you loyal State of Trade readers already know, 40% of jobs in Washington are tied to trade, making us the most trade-driven state in the nation. Ambassador Froman noted that Washington exported nearly $82 billion of goods last year, making us the 4th largest exporting state in the nation (but number one on a per capita basis). This means that Washington has more to gain than any state from successful completion of these trade agreements. That’s why WCIT will continue our relentless efforts to make sure our elected officials understand how important trade is to Washington state’s economy.

So now that we’ve already had lunch with Ambassador Froman, those of us at WCIT will be at a loss the next time someone asks us “if you could have lunch or dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?” Sometimes dreams do come true!

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