U.S. House will vote on Trade Promotion Authority tomorrow; a critical vote for Washington economy

The U.S. House approved procedural measures today, setting up tomorrow’s vote on Trade Promotion Authority. We wrote previously about TPA’s importance to economic growth in our trade-dependent state. 

There’s been a flurry of activity in the countdown to Friday’s vote. The Seattle Times yesterday urged yes votes from members of the state’s Congressional delegation, citing the importance of trade to our economy.

Though unions are opposing the deal, fast-track authority has broad support. The U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday sent a letter to the U.S. House urging passage. Of the 71 mayors signing the letter, three were from Puget Sound: Marilyn Strickland from Tacoma, Raymond Stephanson from Everett and Suzette Cooke from Kent. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declined to sign the letter.

These leaders know firsthand the importance of supporting fast-track authority for the president to help grow exports in their communities and districts. Washington companies have proved they can and want to compete globally.

All but three of Washington’s House delegation support the TPA. Reps. Denny Heck, Adam Smith and Jim McDermott have announced their opposition. The Seattle Times expressed its editorial disappointment, noting the state’s dependence on trade and reciting some facts.

Trade is big business for Washington. Numerous companies and manufacturers ship goods all over the world from airplanes and apples to specialized medical devices and boats for law enforcement and military. Washington exports ballooned by 40 percent over the last four years, to $90.6 billion in 2014 and trade is related to about 40 percent of jobs here, according to the Washington Council on International Trade.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau has a good primer on the legislation, 5 things to know about trade promotion authority

Tracy Warner, writing in the Wenatchee World, offers a good Central Washington perspective on the importance of TPA to agriculture.

Agriculture accounts for 13 percent of the state’s economy, said John Stuhlmiller of the Washington Farm Bureau, and a third of the state’s commodities are exported. At least 75 percent are sold in Asian markets, across the wide Pacific.

We become the worthwhile advertisement for the benefits of trade, or we become the poster child, suffering greatly, when trade is disrupted.

The intersection of economic interests – agriculture, technology and manufacturing – provides a powerful argument for passing the TPA. Washington has a lot at stake in tomorrow’s House vote.