Export Capacity Must be Key Part of Inslee Trade Mission

Governor’s nine-day trip to Asia merits discussion of port infrastructure

OLYMPIA — As the most trade-dependent state in the nation, Gov. Jay Inslee’s trade mission to Asia this week should include discussions of Washington state’s export capacity, said representatives from business, labor, trade and agriculture today in discussing the governor’s nine-day trip to South Korea and Japan.

“Trade is the lifeblood of our economy here in Washington state,” said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state’s chamber of commerce. “As Korea and Japan seek to deepen their trade relationships with us, we must also work to ensure that we can deliver on those trade agreements. That means investing in our transportation and port infrastructure, including the export terminals. Otherwise, we can’t ship our goods, and we know other ports to the north and south are more than happy to take that business from us,” said Johnson.

“Washington state businesses and trade partners need to know they can count on us for certainty when it comes to regulatory timeframes,” added Johnson. “We need to keep Washington state competitive.”

Inslee, along with more than 70 government, education, economic development and business interests left Friday, Aug. 28 for the tour of two of Washington’s top trading partners.

“Every trade mission is an opportunity to open new markets and grow jobs,” said Eric Schinfeld, president of the Washington Council on International Trade in Seattle. “Washington’s relationships with Korea and Japan are particularly special given how connected we are economically and culturally. This mission provides another chance for Washington to showcase our products to these key trading partners. But it should also serve as a conversation starter here at home about what we should be doing to protect our trade status and grow our export capacity.”

According to the governor’s office, Japan was Washington state’s third largest export market in 2014, with $7.4 billion in goods exports; South Korea ranked sixth at $2.8 billion. A significant share of those trade figures are from agriculture. Washington exported $1.6 billion in agricultural products to Japan last year and $469 million worth to South Korea with those numbers expected to grow.

Tom Davis, legislative director for the Washington Farm Bureau, said, “Any time we can look for new ways to grow and expand shipment of our agricultural commodities is a positive step for Washington’s growers, farmers and producers. But we must continue to have conversations here at home about how we plan to ship those goods in a timely manner to foreign markets. Continue investment in our ports and their capacity to ship larger shipments, faster, will help us ensure our position as a global trade leader.”