Cantwell Presses Lighthizer on Trade Enforcement, Opening New Markets to Washington Exporters

Trade enforcement critical to level the playing field for Washington farmers and producers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Trump administration seeks ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, pressed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to include strong trade enforcement mechanisms in the agreement. 

“Washington is one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation,” Senator Cantwell said. “We had $77 billion in exports in 2017 and trade helps support over 300,000 jobs in and outside of our state.” 

Effective trade enforcement commitments are critical to defend Washington state’s thriving export economy against unfair trade practices by other nations. In 2017, the last full season without retaliatory tariffs, Washington state growers shipped 13.7 million boxes of apples to Mexico at a value of roughly $215 million. 

“What do we have to do to get you more support to build robust capacity with Mexico as it relates to enforcement?” Cantwell asked. 

At the hearing, Cantwell voiced support for a plan to build Mexican enforcement capacity by increasing the number and training of enforcement personnel, including labor inspectors, which are important to increasing confidence that factories in Mexico will abide by Mexican labor laws. 

In addition, Ambassador Lighthizer thanked Cantwell for her work on the Trade Enforcement Trust Fund, which provides resources for enforcement actions and helps agencies in charge of enforcing international trade agreements build capacity with trading partners on environmental, labor, intellectual property, and other issues. 

In her questions to U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer, Cantwell also emphasized the importance of opening new markets to American exporters as the United States works on a new agriculture trade deal with Japan. 

“I believe there’s so much outside U.S. markets. We need to support more [trade] activities,” said Cantwell. “Obviously, the region is moving ahead on a Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. Japan doing a deal with the Canadian and Australian market puts [the US] at a disadvantage.”

Lighthizer responded saying he is particularly concerned about American farmers and their access to the Japanese market. 

“We are in a position thus where we’re treated worse than we were before relative to our strongest competition, and that’s an unacceptable situation from a United States point of view, and we are in negotiations, and I think we’re making headway in that score,” stated Lighthizer. 

Later in the hearing, the trade ambassador noted that the United States is making progress in moving forward on a trade deal with Japan. 

"I think we are making headway, and we're in a situation where if we don't make headway quickly people will lose customers and never get that market share back," Lighthizer said during the hearing. 

Senator Cantwell’s remarks today come as she continues to advocate for foreign trade policies that support local businesses, economies, and communities throughout Washington state and around the country. Earlier this year, Cantwell and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) pushed Ambassador Lighthizer to work with Japan to resolve technical issues and remove barriers to allow Washington state apples access to Japanese markets. Cantwell has been a leading voice in calling on the administration to address trade retaliation affecting the Washington state economy and recently secured a provision to help cherry growers hurt by the unjustified retaliatory tariffs by China get access to aid.