This month, Washington state will play host to two significant events underscoring the state’s role as a global trade leader.
Up first: a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is including a three-day visit to Seattle before a state visit to the other Washington and President Obama. Xi will visit the Seattle-area Sept. 22-24 and will incorporate an array of economic and cultural meetings during his visit. Leaders with three of Washington’s most prominent businesses — Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks — are among the host committee members. But thousands of other Washington state businesses, particularly growers, producers and other ag-related exports, see China as a growing market for the state’s renowned apples, berries, wine and other fresh goods. During the last harvest, Washington exported $46 million worth of apples to Hong Kong and China.
So for Washington state exporters, Xi’s visit only serves to underscore an already vital link between Washington and Asian countries. China is the state’s largest exporter, worth nearly $21 billion last year — approximately 23% of the state’s total exports.
Gary Locke, former Washington state governor and U.S. Ambassador to Japan told The Seattle Times, Xi’s visit is “a great honor” and follows the tradition of previous leaders of China. Perhaps more importantly, though, “It just signifies the deep ties between Washington and China, historically, culturally and economically.”
Locke will also be the keynote speaker at another major trade event in Seattle. On Sept. 29, the National Bureau of Asian Research will host Locke and a panel of trade, energy and economic experts for a roundtable discussion. Included in the presentation will be:
- S. Congressman Norm Dicks (Van Ness Feldman, LLP)
- S. Senator Slade Gorton (Slade Gorton International Policy Center, NBR)
- Richard Ellings (President, NBR)
- Mikkal E. Herberg (NBR, University of California, San Diego)
- Shoichi Itoh (Institute of Energy Economics, Japan)
- Mark Thurber (Associate Director for Research, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University)
The event is closed to the public but will be an on-the-record forum; media are invited but must RSVP.
On the heels of Gov. Inslee’s recent trade mission to Korea and Japan, both events serve to reinforce Washington state’s heavy reliance on trade as a key element of its economy. With one in four jobs connected to trade here, it’s not hard to see why investing in the state’s roads and rail infrastructure, enhancing port capacity and ensuring a competitive regulatory environment must continue if we seek to retain our trade status, particularly with Asia.