Cantwell to Commerce Secretary: Trade Wars are Very Damaging to Washington State
is one of the most trade-dependent states in the country; 40 percent of jobs are tied to international trade, representing roughly 1.5 million jobs
Washington, D.C. – In a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pressed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the Trump Administration’s trade policies, which have resulted in retaliatory tariffs with detrimental impacts on Washington state’s agriculture, seafood, and maritime industries, among others.
“Mr. Secretary, I want you to hear me. Apples and cherries are getting hurt,” Senator Cantwell said. “Now, seafood, which again is also on short margin, is going to be in the same spot…. [W]hen we have trade wars it impacts the Washington economy in a major way.”
Recognizing the impact tariffs have had on small businesses and exporters throughout Washington state and around the country, Cantwell highlighted the challenges tariffs have created for American businesses and exporters in competing for market share and shelf space around the world.
“People who are farmers, who own small businesses – small business, individual business – who fight every day to get access to Asian markets, to India, to Canada, to Mexico, they believe in a trade policy that keeps moving forward,” Senator Cantwell said. “American agriculture can still win, but what they can’t win at is if you push them off a shelf space right now on a huge tariff.”
In closing, Senator Cantwell urged Secretary Ross and the Trump Administration to reconsider its trade policies.
[T]rade wars are not good. They’re very damaging, and for the state of Washington, they are very damaging.”
Washington state is one of the most trade-dependent states in the country. Forty percent of jobs in the state are tied to international trade, representing roughly 1.5 million jobs. Recently, some of the state’s major exports, including French fries, representing $756 million in annual exports; apples, $721 million in annual exports; dairy products, $366 exported annually; and cherries, at $358 million in annual exports, have faced retaliatory actions by trading partners around the globe in response to trade actions initiated by the Trump Administration. Seafood has also faced retaliation from China; in 2017, the U.S. exported $1.3 billion worth of seafood to China, with more than 75 percent of those exports coming from Washington state and Alaska.
Senator Cantwell’s remarks at today’s hearing come as she continues to advocate for foreign trade policies that support local businesses, economies, and communities throughout Washington state and around the country. In September 2017, Senator Cantwell led a bipartisan, bicameral group of Pacific Northwest lawmakers in writing a letter calling on the U.S. Trade Representative to defend farmers in the Pacific Northwest from retaliatory tariffs. In March 2018, she called out the Trump Administration for failing to adequately prioritize American exports and harming American consumers. And earlier this month, she led a bipartisan letter signed by members of the Washington state congressional delegation calling on the administration to address trade retaliation affecting the Washington state economy.
The broadcast quality video of Senator Cantwell’s remarks at today’s hearing can be found HERE.
The video can also be found on YouTube HERE.
Audio of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Secretary Ross can be found HERE.
A full transcript of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Secretary Ross is below.
CANTWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Ross, we’ve had many conversations about Washington state and trade writ large. I guess I would say this – that we kind of look at trade wars as very 1980s retro policy. Because 1 in 4 jobs are related to trade, so whether it’s aerospace, or agriculture, or now seafood that’s going to be impacted, when we have trade wars it impacts the Washington economy in a major way. And so many of our businesses have fought these same fights that you’re trying to fight, but they have tried to avoid the trade war, because in the end what happens is somebody pays the price, and in this case, we’re very very concerned about agriculture. So, not only do we have $10 billion plus revenue from ag in our state, we push through our ports about $182 billion worth of ag products. So, anything that affects ag affects our state writ large. Anything, obviously, on the steel tariffs impacts aerospace. And now we’re faced with this seafood issue. So, I guess what I’m really trying to understand is, how do you think this endgame is going to support people who are in a sector that is paying the price in the short-term for, as many of my colleagues have said, this area of job recovery in one area, but means tremendous risk and failure in other areas, if these tariffs continue?
ROSS: Well, the President’s objective is not to end up with high tariffs. And his objective is not to end up with a trade war. He’s made that pretty clear.
CANTWELL: Do you think we’re in a trade war right now? Because I do.
ROSS: Well, if I could finish… His objective is to get to a lowering of trade barriers, both tariff and non-tariff ones, and to protect intellectual property. The problem we have is that because of constrictions imposed by the WTO rules, there are relatively few tools we have to accomplish those objectives. The main tool seems to be one of trying to put pressure on China, and on other parties who are doing what we view as untoward practices, because the only way we’re going to get them to change and protect another big industry in Washington, namely one very dependent on high-tech and very dependent on intellectual property – those are the industries a lot of the future – as well as the industries of the present, is to put pressure on them. The purpose of this is to get to an endgame that’s much closer to free trade than anything the world has seen before. The tragic fact is that historically we are the least protectionist country in the world, and we have the deficits to show for it. It would have been much easier to solve these problems sooner. They were neglected. The President has decided to take decisive action to deal with those problems now. That’s what is our purpose.
CANTWELL: So, I just want to be clear. Do you think we’re at a trade war right now? Because that’s where I see us.
ROSS: As the President has often said, we’ve been at a trade war forever. The difference is that now our troops are coming to the ramparts.
CANTWELL: No, Mr. Secretary, I want you to hear me. Apples and cherries are getting hurt. People who are farmers, who own small businesses – small business, individual businesses – who fight every day to get access to Asian markets, to India, to Canada, to Mexico, they believe in a trade policy that keeps moving forward. Why? Because they gain access and there’s a growing middle class around the globe. They get that we can grow things and be competitive at growing things even if there are more value-added products. American agriculture can still win, but what they can’t win at is if you push them off a shelf space right now on a huge tariff and they go out of business, they’re not coming back. Once you get whatever you think you’re going to get later, that person doesn’t refinance their company and just come back. They might be out of business forever. So, I don’t think you’re empathetic enough to the plight of agriculture.
Now, seafood, which again is also on short margin, is going to be in the same spot. And these people might go out of business while you’re creating this trade war. So, I would just say, Mr. Secretary, trade wars are not good. They’re very damaging, and for the state of Washington, they are very damaging.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
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