With one in three jobs in our home state of Washington dependent on trade, there is no question that there is a strong demand across the globe for the top-quality products generated by our farmers, manufacturers and service providers. It also means that our economy is especially reliant on holding our trading partners accountable for fair policies that place U.S. businesses on a level playing field.
From costly import licensing restrictions in Indonesia that hurt Central Washington fruit growers to devastating Chinese tariffs placed on the polysilicon product manufactured by REC Silicon in Moses Lake, unfair policies imposed by our trading partners can have a significant effect on our economy in Central Washington.
I have long encouraged the United States Trade Representative, which is largely charged with negotiating trade disputes with other countries, to make it a priority to hold our trading partners accountable and resolve these issues in as timely of a manner as possible. Even minor delays can cost our growers and manufacturers their current market share in these countries through no fault of their own – having real impacts here at home.
In addition to ensuring that our current market share is not jeopardized through protectionist policies by our foreign competitors, it is also critical to our economy that we look to create new market opportunities. Trade is a no-cost jobs booster.
With nationwide unemployment hovering above 7 percent since 2009, the United States should actively pursue efforts to open new markets through fair trade deals that create and sustain jobs here at home. Our international competitors are rushing forward with negotiating new trade agreements, and United States producers do not deserve to be left at a disadvantage.
I am pleased that the United States is currently engaged in negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with countries including Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and Chile. While I will be watching these negotiations closely to ensure that Central Washington producers are treated fairly, I believe this agreement has the potential to provide real opportunities for Central Washington farmers and small businesses.
In February, the Obama Administration announced that it would be initiating discussions with the European Union on a possible trade agreement. While I praise the administration for seeking out new trade opportunities, I am cautious that the European Union will attempt to include non-scientific market barriers that could keep U.S. growers out of the that market while opening our markets to their products.
I have already communicated with the United States Trade Representative to express my concerns that these issues be addressed as the negotiations move forward, and I will continue to closely monitor this process.
I support policies that promote new market opportunities in nations around the world. Expanding exports is a no-cost solution to taxpayers to create American jobs and help grow our economy. At a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, I encourage the Obama Administration to take the offense – both on holding our trading partners accountable for fair policies, and in moving forward on new fair trade agreements that put our growers, manufacturers, and service providers on equal ground with their foreign competitors.
Rep. Doc Hastings represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District, including part of Okanogan County.