What Can We Do To Ensure Our State Is Successful in International Trade Policy?

It’s time, dear readers, to reach the final chapter of my “ABC’s of WCIT” series of posts. We started by defining what an international trade issue is, and then followed up with an explanation of why Washington state residents should care about trade policy.

So, if you get what the issues are, and you buy that they matter to us as a state and to our economy, then you should want somebody to do something to promote policies that help us be more successful. And, just like my parents always told me, I am somebody. And I have a plan to do something. Here’s what it’s going to be.

When you think about Washington state’s role in federal trade policy, the first thing you have to realize is that we’ve got lots of advantages in influencing the discussion, and some big disadvantages. The advantages, as I see them, start with these three:

  1. We have some very large influential companies that have the size and power to make folks in DC take notice, and a lot of small and medium sized companies that are really engaged on these issues.
  2. We have a very influential and well-positioned Congressional delegation, who not only get why trade is important but are energized to make a difference.
  3. We’re the most trade dependent state in the country, on a per capita basis, so we have credibility to talk about these issues. Importantly, that trade dependence is diverse too – from aerospace and IT to agriculture, tourism and apparel – so we can talk to a wide variety of policies.

The disadvantages are mostly are two things. First, we’re just far away from the other Washington; you might not think that it matters, but it really does. For example, we just aren’t as present in DC as, say, someone in Connecticut, who can just hop the Acela for the day to testify or attend a meeting. Face time matters. Second, of course, is that we’re just one state, and there are plenty of bigger ones, with more representatives in the House and more sway to Congressional leadership.

So, when you think about putting together a policy strategy for our state on international trade, it’s about leveraging your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses. Here’s my five point plan which, just for fun, I’m going to call the Five P’s of Trade Policy:

1) Policy – First off, we’ve got to know our stuff. So, WCIT is going to be focused on ensuring that its members and the greater community knows as much as possible about what the issues are, why they matter, and what needs to be done. The WCIT website will be chockful of policy papers, talking points, data and related information to promote policies that help Washington be successful in international trade. We’ll also be sending out policy alert emails to let you know when to take action.

2) Profile – Second, WCIT needs to be a high-profile voice for international trade, both here and in DC. You’ll see press releases, op-eds and – of course – lots of social media to get the word out and to stay in front of local stakeholders and national ones. We may not be in DC, but we can be very loud and un-ignorable (if that’s a word) from afar. This is especially important because many folks on the other side of these trade policy discussions do a good job of getting their message out; we need that pro-international trade voice to be just as active.

3) Programs – Programs is an opportunity to accomplish both of the two items list above. Events (speakers, roundtable discussions, webinars) are a great way to hear from local and national experts to beef up our policy understanding of what we need to do, and when and how we need to do it. But they also help us raise our profile, particularly when we have the opportunity to meet with our congressional delegation when they’re back in their districts. This fall, WCIT will be resurrecting the Senator’s Conference, our annual fall meeting hosted and keynoted by our state’s two senators…but we’ll also be sure to involve the rest of the delegation as well; it will be a fantastic opportunity to get in front of all of our electeds to make sure they understand our issues and to collaborate with them on moving our priorities through Congress. We’ll be hosting smaller, one-on-ones with our delegation as well to give them the chance to learn and discuss in more intimate settings. And we’ll be co-sponsoring other events that help us achieve these goals, like the recent Trade Development Alliance event with Congressman Reichert on Korea free trade.

4) Presence – But, of course, just meeting “in district” isn’t enough. WCIT will also be hosting its annual “fly-ins,” organizing a yearly opportunity for a group of us to travel together to DC to meet with not only our delegation but also other legislative and executive branch leaders to discuss and promote policies that support Washington’s trade economy. Plus, I’ll be traveling back regularly, sometimes with small groups of you, to push our priorities when necessary.

5) Partnerships – Finally, the way to combat the fact that we’re just one state is to collaborate with others so that our collective voice is even louder. I’ll be reaching out not only to national coalitions and organizations – like the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition – but also to other state organizations and major metropolitan regions that have some of the same concerns. On a high tech intellectual property issue for example, you can imagine that a group that included the Puget Sound, Silicon Valley, New York, Austin and Boston would be pretty formidable. Or a group of all the west coast ports on something freight mobility related. Of course, there’ll be plenty of partnerships here at home with all of the other international trade organizations – from Trade Development Alliance and World Affairs Council to industry associations that have export policy concerns like the Washington Information Technology Alliance and the Washington Biotech and Biomed Association – to ensure that we’re coordinated, maximizing resources, and leveraging each others activities.

So, there you have it. The WCIT Plan of Action for ensuring that our state has a strong, successful voice in DC on international trade issues. And expressed with alliteration, too. What more could you ask for?

But none of it will matter without your help. One of the things I’m most excited about in this job is collaborating with all of the many companies and organizations that have international trade policy issues. If I go in as just one guy, no one in DC will care. If I’m representing a group of dozens of entities that are driving job creation in our state, that’s a different story.

At the end of the day, it’s about jobs, and ensuring that our state is as competitive as possible in the global economy. So call, email, text, direct message on Twitter…let me know what you want to see most out of WCIT. We’re here to serve, and to be the most effective advocate for the issues that matter most.

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