DelBene, Ambassador Tai Highlight Trade’s Critical Role in WA Economy
Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) discussed trade’s critical role to Washington state’s economy during a House Ways & Means Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. She also questioned Ambassador Tai on market access in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which would open new economic opportunities for Washington state businesses and workers in the growing Pacific region.
The hearing video can be found here and the transcript is below:
DelBene: As you know, Washington state is the most active trading state in the country. Over 40% of all jobs in our state are tied to trade. We export products ranging from digital goods and services to aircraft and trucks, as well as over $6 billion in products, agricultural products like seafood and dairy. Also, our ports and port workers serve as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific and we bring in energy products, semiconductors, and cars, from around the world and export American wheat, corn, and soybeans.
90% of our state’s 12,000 companies that export are small- and medium-sized businesses and these businesses are looking to expand trade in the Indo-Pacific, where over half of the world’s economic growth is expected over the next 30 years. And I know the Indo-Pacific economic framework could have a bold impact by opening up markets for digital and agricultural products and setting better standards for labor and the environment.
That said, we need to ensure that we’re putting enough on the table to accomplish these goals. And we’ve heard from the administration that you’re not considering market access as part of that framework and so I wondered if you could explain why market access commitments aren’t a part of the framework. What other incentives do you have at your disposal to bring countries with weaker labor, environmental, and digital standards to the table?
Ambassador Tai: Congresswoman DelBene, I know as a Representative of a district in Washington state that trade matters a lot to you, and I’ve learned a lot about your district and also the state. And I also understand why this Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is of great interest to you as well.
I thank you for the opportunity to address this question around market access and why market access is not on the table right now and what that means. I think that there is a distinction that we need to make and it’s a little bit the distinction between trade terminology and trade jargon and just regular English.
So, when we talk about market access in trade speak, generally, what we are talking about is tariff liberalization, tariff reductions and it is true that we are not talking about tariff reductions in the context of the Indo-Pacific economic framework. Nevertheless, if we’re going to revert to just ordinary English and talk about market access as access to markets, as economically meaningful outcomes, then in that sense, market access is absolutely a part of what we intend to build out with our Indo-Pacific partners.
To your question, why are we making this distinction? I’d like to just make a couple comments there. I think that in terms of tariff liberalization if you look at the world that we are in right now, with a lot of crisscrossing, cross-cutting free trade agreements and then also the overall, the WTO structure, we’re actually living in a pretty tariff liberalized world as it is. That’s not to say that there aren’t further gains that could be made or more tariffs that could be brought down but we’re in a pretty fluid world for the movement of goods.
The concern that we’ve run into over the course of this version of globalization is, especially here in the U.S., a real concern about the offshoring and the erosion of our jobs and our industries and that has in large part been focused on our manufacturing industries but increasingly has also extended to the services industries and concerns around offshoring there.
So, what I want to say is that with respect to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, our intention is to bring to our partners in the region, really a 21st century trade conversation. To say let’s look at the opportunities for creating something economically meaningful that goes beyond what we’ve done traditionally, with all the traditional trappings and the traditional pitfalls, and let’s push ourselves, learning those lessons for how we can create something with our partners here that is economically meaningful, equitable, durable and that makes all of us feel more secure.
DelBene: Thank you. I look forward to working with you on that.