Ensure APEC agreement creates jobs in Washington State

Nov 26, 2011

Seattle Times

By Rick Larsen
Special to The Times

November 25, 2011

WHEN the leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific nations gathered in Hawaii earlier this month for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, stakes were high for Washington workers and businesses. That's because the Asia-Pacific region is a huge market for Washington exports. Just last year Washington sent $37 billion worth of goods to nations in the region, which represents a striking 69 percent of all of our exports.

At the APEC meeting, President Obama and key leaders from eight other nations — including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam — announced agreement on broad outlines for a 21st-century Trans-Pacific Partnership designed to increase trade. This agreement has the potential to open up large new markets for Washington goods, and will help our businesses export their products — not their jobs — to the Asia-Pacific region.

Boosting exports means creating jobs. Already our exports to the Asia-Pacific region are estimated to support more than 258,000 jobs in the state. Jobs that are tied to international trade pay 46 percent higher wages on average, and they see greater levels of stability thanks to a larger and diversified market.

That makes it important to negotiate a strong trade agreement to expand our export opportunities. I was pleased that the agreement sets us on a course toward strong trade opportunities on a level playing field. Importantly, the leaders have agreed to cooperate on the protection of labor rights and environmental concerns in any final agreement.

While our major companies like Boeing are big exporters, small- and medium-sized businesses play an important role too.

Here's just one example from my congressional district: When people in Wellington, New Zealand, want to eat pizza, they can visit the restaurant Osteria del Toro. While there, they can order a pizza that was baked in an oven that was manufactured by the people at Wood Stone Corporation in Bellingham. This is a win-win for New Zealand and the United States. They get to eat great pizza, and jobs are created here in Northwest Washington.

It's critical that small businesses like Wood Stone have increasing access to the Asian markets without fear of having their innovations stolen and copied and without additional burdens such as additional taxes or other market access issues.

To help these businesses find export markets for their products, I have established a District Export Program in my district office. This program is about connecting local small- and medium-sized businesses with the people and resources they need to export their goods overseas. The U.S. and Washington state governments provide resources for export training, exporter incentives, payment guarantees and foreign market information.

There are other ways we can support engagement with this important part of the world. One example is a piece of legislation that I and Sen. Maria Cantwell authored and President Obama signed in Hawaii. It establishes the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business travel card that allows U.S. businesspeople to travel more freely in the region, making travel more efficient and easing efforts to find new export markets.

This law will now extend travel benefits to American businesspeople that their counterparts in 18 other nations have already had for years when visiting the United States.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to four out of the top five export markets for U.S. goods and nearly half of global trade. I am pleased with the progress achieved at the summit in Hawaii, and I am committed to working with the president and my colleagues in Congress to help U.S. companies expand their exports overseas and grow jobs here at home.