Restoring the Bipartisan Consensus Supporting Global Trade is Vital to Washington’s Continued Economic Success

Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton writes of the importance of international trade to the state economy and warns that shifting political winds may be jeopardizing our historically strong position. 

Washington is different, and we’re proud of the attributes that make us an unusual star in the union.

One defining characteristic, however, threatens to leave us as an outlier in a volatile political environment: trade.

Talton cites familiar data: Washington ranks third among the states in the value of exports, boasts the nation’s highest exports per capita, and one-third of the state’s employment can be tied to trade. Then, the warning:

Both Republicans and Democrats are turning against trade. It is especially pronounced in the presidential race.

More worrisome: 

The candidates are following as much as leading.

A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 49 percent of those surveyed “say U.S. involvement in the global economy is a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs.”

In a response to an earlier Talton piece, Eric Schinfeld, president of the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT), wrote,

A recent Washington Council on International Trade poll found that 54 percent of our state’s registered voters support the TPP while only 23 percent oppose. The numbers are even better for party-affiliated voters, with 58 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans supportive of the TPP.

In a state where 40 percent of jobs are tied to trade, it’s no surprise that voters recognize the importance of the TPP, which would cut more than 18,000 tariffs on U.S. exports and streamline processes to make it easier for Washingtonians to access gains from trade.

In our foundation report, we reviewed the state’s dependence on trade, citing WCIT  among our sources. And we concluded,

Given its many trade advantages, the state is well-positioned to continue to be a leader in international trade for years to come.

We continue to be bullish on trade. And we worry about the receding political consensus. Talton concluded his column by observing, 

Washington has been a net beneficiary under the old trade paradigm. But it and other export-dependent states such as California face new and uncharted terrain ahead if the United States decides the losers from trade outnumber the winners.

The WCIT poll demonstrates most Washingtonians understand what’s at stake. It’s important that our national political leaders also get the message.