New ‘business-blue’ coalition focuses on protecting Washington’s trade status

Puget Sound Business Journal, Eric Schinfeld, December 5, 2014

As the most trade-dependent state in the nation, Washington and its people take pride in knowing that the things we make and build are valued around the world.

From the surging demand in China for Washington cherries to growing usage of Washington ports as a gateway to Asia for U.S. companies outside our state, our competitiveness as a global trade hub drives our economic prosperity.

As an advocate for international trade, I’m fortunate to work with some of the most innovative global brands in America today, witnessing companies whose efforts both distinguish them across the globe and also bring jobs and prosperity back to America’s middle class. Last week, following our annual Washington Trade Conference, I introduced a panel discussion convened by partners from Keep Washington Competitive, a new coalition of business and labor leaders.

This new group is composed of more than 40 of Washington’s most influential labor unions, companies and business and trade associations representing hundreds of thousands of workers. The objective is to identify pragmatic, common-sense solutions that will ensure Washington thrives in an increasingly competitive national and international marketplace.

The group has identified a “business-blue” agenda, where common ground between business and organized labor is clear. Three issues have been identified as near-term priorities:

  • We support efforts by the Washington congressional delegation to reform the federal Harbor Maintenance Tax. Since 2003, collections levied on U.S. imports though Washington ports have far exceeded funds appropriated back to our state for harbor maintenance and infrastructure investment. This isn’t fair to Washington, and this debate represents an opportunity to secure new investment in our port and freight infrastructure.
  • We support a reasonable state water quality standard that balances our environment and economy. Labor and business alike have seen how Washington’s unique environmental rules can have a huge impact on our ability to attract new business and retain existing employers. Maintaining our region’s heritage of strong water stewardship is achievable without holding Washington businesses and communities to unobtainable standards.
  • We oppose inconsistent application of Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act review process. Environmental review for infrastructure projects shouldn’t change based on the specific investment. That creates uncertainty and complexity.

The resurgence of American manufacturing and the growth of Asia’s economies present enormous opportunity. By taking action on common-ground solutions that benefit all trade-related industries, we’re securing the next generation of Washington’s global brands.

Eric Schinfeld is President of the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT)