Policy Summit kicks off with talk of trade, exports and education
Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke sat down Tuesday with AWB President Kris Johnson for a wide-ranging discussion focusing on trade, exports and infrastructure to kick-off the annual Policy Summit at Suncadia Resort.
Locke, who also served as U.S. commerce secretary and U.S. ambassador to China, told Johnson that U.S.-made products are highly sought-after in China because of their quality, and that the country represents a great opportunity for Northwest manufacturers, particularly those that ship directly to consumers.
“We need to showcase our products and services,” Locke said, noting the growth in for-profit hospitals in China as one example.
For now, however, Locke said that both sides are suffering as a result of the trade war between the countries. There are legitimate issues the U.S. needs China to address, Locke said, including intellectual property and Chinese subsidies. But he wishes the U.S. had joined forces with its allies and presented a united front against China, rather than using tariffs.
“In a trade war involving tariffs, there are no winners,” he said.
Trade and export discussions continued throughout the afternoon, with Lisa Brown, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce, moderating a pair of panel discussions focused on trade and exports.
The first panel included Adeline Grenier, trade commissioner with the Canadian Trade Commission, and Yoichiro Yamada, consul general with the Consulate General of Japan.
Brown, who took part in AWB’s trade mission to Japan this spring, opened the discussion with some good news – the initial trade agreement between the U.S. and Japan that President Trump announced on Monday.
Grenier spoke about another pending trade deal – the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Mexico was the first country to ratify the agreement. Canada has entered an election period, so her nation’s ratification of the agreement will wait until after the new parliament is chosen, Grenier said, but she was optimistic it would happen. The U.S. Congress has yet to ratify it.
The panel also spoke about ways the Japan economy is addressing its labor shortage, how Canada is attempting to diversify its economy and how the nations might react to a global economic downturn.
In the next panel, Brown continued the discussion around trade and exports with two leaders from Washington’s agriculture sector: Alex McGregor, president of The McGregor Company; and Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.
Both men said the trade war has been bad for Washington, particularly farm families.
McGregor said the trade war with China could not have come at a worse time for the agriculture sector. He’s hopeful the USMCA is ratified soon, along with the Japan trade agreement.“The agreement with Japan shows so much promise,” McGregor said. “We’re very hopeful.”
Chris Reykdal, Washington’s superintendent of public instruction, wrapped up the day’s discussion with an overview of Washington’s K-12 education accomplishments over the last few years, and where it’s headed.
Since the McCleary court decision, Washington has increased spending on K-12 education by $3.5 billion, he said, bringing the state from one of the lowest-funded in the nation as percent of gross state product to close to the national average.
Going forward, the focus will be on career pathways and connecting students to employers, Reykdal said. Washington’s high school graduation rates are good, especially considering the high bar compared to other states. He wants to take programs like Core Plus, which Boeing helped develop to train students to work in aerospace careers and expand to other fields.
For Washington’s economy to flourish, it was clear from Tuesday’s discussions that we need to develop the next generation of skilled workers, and we must continue to export the state’s goods and services to the world.
“The land where we grow crops is extraordinarily productive,” McGregor said. “We’re focused on feeding hungry people around the world. Ours is a global world - we need those global markets.”