June 29, 2020
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USMCA goes into effect on Wednesday

Wednesday marks the first day that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) will go into full effect. This updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) contains significant improvements and modernized approaches to rules of origin, agricultural market access, intellectual property, digital trade, financial services, labor, and many other sectors.

The USMCA is particularly relevant to Washington, with its key trade ties to both our next-door neighbor to the north and to Mexico, which is a major purchaser of Washington fruit and other products.

Washington state exported $9.3 billion in products to Canada in 2018 and $2.2 billion to Mexico, helping create more than 330,000 jobs statewide. That total of $11.5 billion includes transportation equipment ($2.9 billion), computer and electronic products ($948 million), agricultural products ($753 million) and processed food ($650 million). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has more.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, a key supporter of the USMCA, said the trade pact will boost Washington's exports of apples, wheat, dairy, digital products and more.

“The United States can't lose shelf space to very, very competitive markets and then come back years later and try to regain it,” Cantwell said earlier this year. “Let's be a world leader in establishing the rules for fair trade and pushing for provisions like we see in the Mexico agreement so we can move forward in making sure Washington products, U.S. products, American-made products, get delivered to a growing, wealthier world.”

Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for federal issues, to learn more.

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Now More Than Ever, Health Insurance Matters
Invest in Early Childhood Education

Fixing child-care shortage and Washington's economic recovery go hand in hand

By The Seattle Times Editorial Board

As Washington gets back to business, many job-seeking parents of young children face a frustrating double bind. Even if they do find employment that will help them provide for their family, the short supply of quality, affordable child care makes it impossible for them to take the job.

Nearly half -- 47% -- of unemployed parents cited lack of child care as a barrier to re-employment in a May survey, according to a state Child Care Collaborative Task Force child-care industry assessment. Since March, more than 1,100 licensed child-care providers have at least temporarily closed, exacerbating a shortage flagged by state lawmakers long before COVID-19...

Even before this spring's upheaval, nearly half of Washington parents reported difficulty finding and keeping affordable child care. Twenty-seven percent reported leaving a job, school or training because of a lack of consistent, affordable care, according to a Department of Commerce report.

This is not just a problem for working families; it is a drain on the state's economy. Commerce estimates that employee turnover and missed work due to child-care issues create an annual $2.08 billion drag on the state economy. That number triples when figuring in opportunity costs.

Addressing Washington's child-care shortage will not be easy, especially during the tough economic times ahead. But quality, affordable child care is a linchpin to the state's economic recovery. More must be done to ensure this essential sector does not fail.

Read the full editorial in The Seattle Times
Foreign Workers Support Our Economy

Big Tech isn't the only loser in Trump's visa freeze

By Tae Kim

On Monday, Trump signed an executive order that freezes access to a number of work visas through year-end, including the H-1B visa for highly-skilled foreigners, which is primarily given to workers in the technology industry. The issuance of new green cards will also stay halted until the end of the year. The administration said the order would free up jobs for unemployed Americans, adding it would block about 500,000 people from entering the country this year.

The move sparked an avalanche of criticism from technology companies. They said the measures will hurt their ability to recruit talent and have deeper negative ramifications for the economy.

An Amazon.com Inc. spokesperson called the order "shortsighted," adding it prevents "high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America's economic recovery, [putting] American's global competitiveness at risk."

A Facebook Inc. representative said Trump is using the pandemic as justification for "limiting" immigration, which will make "our country's recovery even more difficult."

And Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith said on social media, "Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world's talent or create uncertainty and anxiety."

Read the full column in The Seattle Times