Cantwell Talks Trade at Association of Washington Business Federal Affairs Summit

With tariff approach not working, Cantwell remains focused on expanding trade opportunity, leveling the playing field for Washington farmers and producers

Richland, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today focused on the importance of trade to Washington state at the Association of Washington Business 2019 Federal Affairs Summit. In her remarks, she highlighted a number of important tools the United States should be using to find new trade opportunities and become more competitive around the world. 

“Whether it’s wheat, hay, fruit, airplanes, or software, our state knows the incredible opportunity associated with trade,” Senator Cantwell said. 

At the event, Cantwell highlighted the importance of reaching overseas markets and cast doubt on President Trump’s “tariff-first” approach to trade, which has invited harmful retaliatory tariffs that are taking a hit at the bottom line of many Washington farmers and producers. 

“Over 95% of all consumers are outside the United States. We need to reach the growing middle class, and opening up markets should be an opportunity,” Cantwell said. “That’s why you could say I definitely differ with the president’s approach, which I quantify as a ‘tariff-first’ approach to trade. Clearly trading partners have been rattled, and so have global markets. A ‘tariff-first’ approach leads to collateral damage.” 

In her remarks, Cantwell explained why a different and more effective approach to trade enforcement is critical to defend Washington’s thriving export economy against unfair trade practices by other nations. Senator Cantwell pointed out that the United States should be working with allies in Europe and Japan to stop China from stealing intellectual property and to give fair market access to American companies. 

“China will never be able to be a partner in an information age economy if they don’t respect property rights,” Cantwell said. 

There are a number of tools the United States should be using to grow trade opportunities for the future. These tools include helping Mexico build capacity to protect and enforce labor rights. By doing so, Mexico will be in a better position to fulfill its own labor commitments. In the Senate, Cantwell is working to give the U.S. and Mexican governments better tools to identify where labor violations are occurring and better target enforcement actions. 

“Capacity building with some of our partners is a challenge, trust me,” Cantwell explained. “Earlier this year, Mexico enacted a new important labor law ensuring Mexican workers’ rights to organize. Now they have asked for help to build the capacity to enforce those labor rights, and we’re looking for ways to implement that this year.” 

In 2015, Cantwell worked to create 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. 

“With so many consumers outside the United States, it’s imperative that we have stronger trade tools for enforcement,” Cantwell continued. 

Another tool is a fully functioning Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), which provides the financing support necessary to help thousands of American businesses export their products to overseas markets. This support is vital to ensuring that American companies can compete on a level playing field with competitors from around the world. The bank’s authorization is currently set to expire at the end of this September, and Cantwell is leading the fight to reauthorize it for another 10 years. 

“We can never leave the Export-Import Bank in limbo again,” Cantwell said. “That’s why, when we return in September, we have to put a full force fight on to make sure the bank is reauthorized. That is the certainty we should be giving to Washington exporters.” 

At the summit, Cantwell also emphasized the importance of infrastructure investment as a tool to make the United States even more competitive around the globe. 

“We also need to get serious about infrastructure. So much of our trade economy relies on getting our products to market in a timely fashion,” said Senator Cantwell. “Investing in trade infrastructure has been a huge priority for me. I want to see serious investment in our ports and infrastructure to make us more competitive. Port infrastructure funding is another way to get traffic moving at our ports and make them more efficient for the future.” 

Senator Cantwell’s remarks today come as she continues to advocate for trade policies that support local businesses, economies, and communities throughout Washington state and around the country. Earlier this year, Cantwell pressed Ambassador Lighthizer directly to include strong trade enforcement mechanisms in the USMCA. In March, Cantwell and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) asked 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 Trump 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.