Editorial: Washington's Congressional Lawmakers Must Continue Progress on Trade Bills

By:  The Seattle Times - Editorial Board
Source: The Seattle Times

Washington scored a victory when two trade bills progressed in the Senate last week, but the state’s representatives in the House must now keep up the fight.

GOOD news for Washington — a state that depends more on trade than most others — emerged from the other Washington last week when the U.S. Senate approved a key trade bill.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., shrewdly parlayed a vote on the controversial fast-track authority, which would allow the president to negotiate trade deals, to secure a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

Both are important to Washington state. One would give the president authority to negotiate trade deals, leaving Congress the option to vote them either up or down. The Ex-Im Bank offers loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to foreign purchasers of U.S. exports — worth $27 billion in 2013.

Opponents of the Ex-Im Bank, which has existed for more than 80 years, say it unfairly uses government resources to finance overseas deals that benefit major corporations, such as Boeing. That view ignores that about 60 other nations operate similar banks and U.S. companies can compete better when their customers access this financing.

Fast-track authority has similarly been mired in controversy. Resistance mainly comes from two camps: some Republicans who don’t want to cooperate with Obama on anything and some Democrats who want to protect existing jobs and manufacturing.

The debate over fast-track authority is stirred by opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim nations that the Obama administration has been negotiating for several years. Some industries stand to lose jobs, but the economy also stands to benefit from an agreement that would open up new markets for American products.

During a Tuesday speech at Boeing’s Renton plant, Secretary of State John Kerry noted that blocking trade deals won’t stop globalization — an impossible task. “Globalization has no reverse gear, my friends,” he said.

Washington state, where 40 percent of jobs are linked to trade, has much to gain from advancing trade. The state’s exports have grown by 40 percent over the last four years, to $90.6 billion in 2014.

Cantwell and her colleague, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., effectively pushed to support Washington’s economy by advancing trade bills.

Now it’s up to the state’s congressional delegation to do the same in the U.S. House.