In an interview conducted by phone today, Congress Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) spoke from South Korea saying that trade talks between the U.S. and the Asian nation were achieving a “win-win” consensus toward a key free trade agreement that would eliminate tariffs and open markets.

Reichert also commented on the battle between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board, and about rumors of a run for Sen. Maria Cantwell’s seat when it comes up in 2012.

Washington state’s 8th district congressman traveled to South Korea this week with the U.S. trade delegation led by current Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. He is accompanied by House colleagues Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and a team of Commerce Department staff.

During preparations for a morning visit to the DMZ, Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA) shared an optimistic progress report for an economic agreement with South Korea, Washington state’s fourth largest trading partner.

“There is a very strong voice here that says this is a win-win, in more than just the economic sense but also in the national security sense for Korea, the region and the United States,” the congressman said.

But the chickens have yet to hatch, and Reichert senses that Korea’s attention will fixed on the Congress as the debate warms up.

“The people in Korea, in general, are very excited about this agreement and it does appear as though they will move forward, watching us of course in the House as the bills come up,” Reichert predicted.

Within a free trade agreement that Reichert and the U.S. delegation believe is a win-win, in America’s ‘win’ column is an abundance of new economic opportunity for U.S. and Washington state businesses that would kick in upon enactment.

“Immediately, about 80% of the tariffs on our goods that are shipped [to Korea] will be removed,” Reichert stated. “Down the road, about five years later, almost 92% of the tariffs will be removed… That includes — especially for Washington State when you look at the services industry — insurance companies, mortgage companies, lawyers and education and technology… there’s almost immediate market access for businesses like Microsoft and others.”

“In the agricultural area, on our Eastern side of the state, there’s also benefit there… The tariffs are almost eliminated over a five to ten-year period of time and almost immediate access to the market here.”

Reichert also chimed in about the hot feud between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists, saying that unions represent workers best when they understand that “the benefit to their membership is directly linked to the health of the organization they work for.”

“Washington State, in general, has not been a friendly environment for business, for more than one reason, taxes of course are one,” Reichert added.

The recent news that Gov. Chris Gregoire will travel to the Paris Air Show with a delegation of union representatives later this year – where a talk with Airbus executives about the advantages of doing business in Washington may be on the agenda – could be seen as an escalation in the IAM’s campaign of retaliation for Boeing’s decision to build planes in business-friendly, union-neutral South Carolina.

Reichert has experience on both sides of the table – as an employee and as a sheriff negotiating contracts with the union – and does not reject the legitimate role of unions. “Unions work in some organizations and they don’t work in others,” Reichert said, going on to say that they work best when there is mutual respect for the needs of both parties.

“In Boeing’s situation there hasn’t been this cooperative, congenial atmosphere,” the congressman said.

I also asked Reichert for comment on persistent rumors that he will run for Sen. Maria Cantwell’s seat in 2012. Chuckling a bit, he repeated a stock answer many local reporters can recite as easily as the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I never shut the door on any opportunities and it’s too early to make those sorts of decisions.”

But as a senior member in the majority on the House Ways and Means Committee, sitting on the Trade and Healthcare Subcommittees, Reichert still sees great value for the state sticking in his current post.

“I am very much enjoying Ways and Means,” Reichert said. “I have seniority on that committee. For Washington State, my presence there is very much a benefit.”


[photo credit: flickr]

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