Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was rightfully sounding the alarm over the impact of President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs Thursday in a televised interview on CNBC. For a trade exposed state like ours, the potential for additional tariffs is a reason for concern.
But what was interesting was that in the same interview, Inslee also attempted to tout the state’s overall business climate under his watch.
CNBC recently rolled out its annual “Top States for Business,” which according to their metrics put Washington state in second only behind Texas in this year’s rankings. The governor told CNBC interviewers the state would be “back to number one next year” and that “it’s a competition – we understand competition.” And yet, his administration has continued to create regulatory roadblocks to, of all things, an export terminal that would make the state more economically competitive.
For nearly six years now, the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview has been seeking permits to build a coal export terminal. Yet the administration continues to offer a litany of excuses and delays on the project, something Montana Attorney General Tim Fox recently highlighted in his New York Times guest column. The problem, Fox noted, is that Inslee and his allies “don’t like coal.”
In his CNBC interview raising concerns over the prospect of additional tariff’s from the Trump administration, Inslee was quick to rise to the defense of Washington’s major export crops — agricultural products. He was right to do so. But these same crops could be helped and would benefit from the investment in the state’s infrastructure network that we would see from the addition of a new bulk commodity export terminal in our state. Something his administration has been opposed to.
“Our apple producers have been hit with responsive tariffs,” Inslee told interviewers. “Our aluminum boat builders have issues about aluminum prices. Our cherries, which are just going crazy in China, [are] going to be hit as well,” he said. About $1.8 billion worth of exports stand to be adversely affected by the Trump tariffs, Inslee added.
What he didn’t highlight: While Washington ranked second best overall in the CNBC rankings, its infrastructure ranked a paltry 31st.
As the most trade dependent state in the nation, shouldn’t Inslee be as vigilant about the infrastructure needed to maintain a top business ranking as he is about trade policies – regardless of the commodity?