Tag: international trade

Bipartisan Caucus Forms in Olympia to Focus on State’s Ability to Compete in Global Economy

OLYMPIA, WA, Mar. 12 -- Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant speaks at the launch of the bipartisan Competitiveness Caucus.

OLYMPIA, WA, Mar. 12 — Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant speaks at the launch of the bipartisan Competitiveness Caucus.

On Thursday, a bipartisan coalition of member from both houses in the state Legislature joined to focus on matters of how best to safeguard the state’s competitiveness in the critical area of international trade.

The newly formed Competitiveness Caucus will be led by co-chairs from the state Senate—Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla) and Tim Sheldon (D-Potlach)—and the state House—Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) and Susan Fagan (R-Pullman).

They received congratulatory applause in the form of a celebratory press release sent by Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition representing business, labor, trade and agriculture organizations, in which Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant spoke to the relationship between a functional regulatory environment, global competitiveness and protecting jobs here in Washington.

“Across Washington, thousands of family wage jobs depend on our ports,” said Bryant. “Unpredictable policies and permitting processes can undermine our ability to keep and attract employers that provide middle class jobs, and undermine our ability to generate more good jobs in communities across Washington.”

“Keep Washington Competitive, with the help of the newly formed Competitiveness Caucus, will maintain a much-needed focus on ensuring we adopt policies that both protect our environment and communities while generating jobs.”

Here is the entire press release issued Thursday by Keep Washington Competitive about the launch of the Competitiveness Caucus:

Competitiveness Caucus Launches in Olympia
Bipartisan group focuses on regulatory issues, jobs in letter to governor

OLYMPIA, Wash., March 12, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Republican and Democratic lawmakers joined forces today in Olympia to focus on issues that will protect and enhance Washington state’s competitiveness in global trade.

The newly launched Competitiveness Caucus is a collaborative effort welcomed by Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition of business, labor, agriculture and trade groups working to highlight regulatory and trade issues essential to the state’s long-term future.

“We have a unique opportunity today to bring so many different interests together around a common issue: our economy,” said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business and a member of the KWC advisory board. “Employers all over Washington are looking for consistency when it comes to the regulatory process. Currently, there’s too much inconsistency —they need that certainty to expand and hire more people. Keep Washington Competitive and the new Competitiveness Caucus will help maintain state-level focus on regulatory issues and the roadblocks that stand to have deep, sustained impacts on our jobs, our trade status and our economy.”

“Today more than ever before, our industry must have attainable environmental standards to continue to manufacture and export products,” said Larry Brown, Legislative and Political Director, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Local 751 and a member of the KWC advisory board. “We need regulatory policies that foster job growth and encourage production and export of our products. Other states are hungry for the kind of jobs and products we offer in Washington state. We need to be positioned to compete in a rapidly changing, global marketplace.”

Co-chairs for the new Competitiveness Caucus include Senate co-chairs Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, along with House co-chairs Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and Susan Fagan, R-Pullman. As leaders of the new Competitiveness Caucus, the four legislators will maintain a focus on the state’s regulatory environment and trade growth. This includes:

A timely regulatory review process lasting no longer than 18 months for proposals meeting Washington state’s high environmental standards.

An environmental framework that is predictable and obtainable, focusing on the needs of communities where projects are to be built, rather than speculative impacts.

A commitment to promoting trade growth and the diversity of employment opportunities that sustain Washington’s middle class.

“Agriculture is the second largest export category in Washington,” said Tom Davis, director of government relations for the Washington State Farm Bureau. “More than $15 billion of agricultural products were exported from our ports in 2013. It’s an economic imperative that we have the ability to move our products from farm to market and to our port facilities in a timely and reliable manner. Sound policies are needed that promote and ensure this outcome.”

Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant underscored the valuable role Washington’s ports play in our state’s economic vitality. The cargo moving through the ports of Tacoma and Seattle touch about one-third of the state’s gross domestic product — and about 200,000 jobs statewide.

“Across Washington, thousands of family wage jobs depend on our ports,” said Bryant. “Unpredictable policies and permitting processes can undermine our ability to keep and attract employers that provide middle class jobs, and undermine our ability to generate more good jobs in communities across Washington.”

“Keep Washington Competitive, with the help of the newly formed Competitiveness Caucus, will maintain a much-needed focus on ensuring we adopt policies that both protect our environment and communities while generating jobs.”

As part of today’s announcement, Johnson and members of the Competitiveness Caucus delivered a letter to Gov. Inslee signed by representatives of business, labor, agriculture and trade highlighting regulatory and trade issues in Washington state. To view the letter, click here.

About Keep Washington Competitive

In 2014, AWB and representatives from labor, business, agriculture and other trade organizations formed Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition united to protect trade from overreaching regulations and to promote bi-lateral trade growth in Washington state through sound state policies and fostering a regulatory environment that encourages investment in our state trade industries. To learn more, visit http://keepwashingtoncompetitive.com/.

Former WTO Official: Washington’s Climate Change Standard for Coal Port Approvals Violates Int’l Treaties

Opponents of proposals to expand capabilities for exporting liquid natural gas (LNG) and coal from one port in Oregon and two ports in Washington state are fighting on a number of fronts – playing in races to elect local candidates, campaigning to sway public opinion, and leveraging political connections to erect a prohibitive permitting process.

However, according to a report co-authored by former World Trade Organization judge James Bacchus, efforts to block the projects could ultimately run afoul of international trade treaties and produce negative consequences for the US.

(Click to download and read the full report.)

In preparing the report commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, Bacchus sought answers to two questions.

First, have there been “unreasonable” delays by the U.S. Department of Energy in approving licenses to export LNG, delays that would constitute violations of international treaties? Second, have steps taken by state and local jurisdictions to dramatically redefine the environmental review process for such projects also violated key provisions of international trade agreements?

The report answered “yes” to both queries, specifically asserting that these delaying actions are artificial barriers to trade that are prohibited under rules the US agrees to through membership in the WTO.

Specifically, the NAM report cites slower-than-usual issuance of LNG export licenses through the U.S. Department of Energy and the creation of new and extreme environmental impact criteria by the Washington State Dept. of Ecology and local agencies.

“The United States has always been a strong advocate of rules that forbid export restrictions and has been forceful in challenging export restrictions imposed by other countries,” said Bacchus in a statement accompanying the report. “[T]he tables may be turned on the United States directly in the WTO, but also through other countries walking away from core principles that have long been critical to U.S. success in the global economy.”

Under Gov. Jay Inslee, the Dept. of Ecology has reached far beyond the normal scope of environmental impact studies for the proposed projects (to be sited in the vicinities of Longview and Bellingham, Wash.) to consider not only how the local environment might be affected, but how the use of exported coal in overseas energy production would impact the global climate.

In a letter sent by NAM to Inslee on Saturday, the industry group stated that Washington’s proposed ad hoc process “would in and of itself constitute a violation of [US] obligations under the WTO.”

We reached out to Inslee’s office for comment, but have not heard back.

The opinion of Bacchus raises enough serious questions to wonder whether Inslee and his close advisors have thought carefully about where this episode of eco-brinksmanship will take us.

How much self-inflicted damage to the US economy and our trade relations is acceptable to environmental activists in pursuit of objectives that seem too often to only achieve ideological, not environmental, goals?

If US coal exports are blocked, that will not prevent growing nations in desperate need of energy from acquiring elsewhere, most likely buying cheaper (but dirtier) coal. Among those energy-greedy nations is China, a major trading partner critical to the Washington state economy and a holder of the lion’s share of US federal debt, an estimated trillion dollars or more.

In addition to the obvious incentive for the US to begin bringing some of our dollars back home from increased LGN and coal exports, there are other strategic components worthy of consideration. The Chinese government has a solid track record on unilaterally defining linkages in economic disputes and foreign affairs, often writing its own rulebook when determining in what will suffice in rectifying perceived injustices.

Until the US is back in the driver’s seat of the relationship again – a reality that we may not see again in this writer’s lifetime – a more conservative approach to issues affecting trade with China seems prudent; avoiding actions that could yield opportunities for China to obtain cost-free advantages in negotiations a smarter path for US economic and real security.

Have You Hugged a Coal Miner Today? Regional and Global Implications of Coal Must Be Taken Seriously

We want to call our readers’ attention to an article in the Vancouver Sun by David Brett. Brett has opened a vein of logical and reasoned thoughts about why we don’t only need to come to terms with the realities about our necessary relationship with coal, but why maybe, just maybe, coal deserves a bit more credit than it gets these days.

Brett writes:

Poor coal. It’s the mineral not even a mother could love. It’s the orphaned rock, dirty to burn and easy to hate. Vancouver was cheered recently for banning coal, even though it had no coal to ban. Oppose coal and you’re a rock star. Support coal and you’re booed offstage. Surely opposing West Coast coal exports to Asia is the smart, environmentally and morally right thing to do.

Or is it? A series of inconvenient realities suggest otherwise. …

Brett makes a case for the necessity of keeping coal in our energy production arsenal and describes global factors that are solid reasons to believe that the impulse to shun coal for emotional satisfaction is short-sighted and counterproductive. But he also wants remind folks that coal not only has a place in our economy, but that we may have forgotten to save a place for it in our hearts as well.

Coal is not just a much-loathed rock we can toss aside; it’s part of the fabric of our human existence. We have a complex relationship with coal built over millennia. We can’t rashly break it off over night. Coal needs a little love too.

Please meander over to the Vancouver Sun where you can read the entire piece. It’s well worth your time.

The debate over expanding capacity in Washington state ports to handle increased coal exports is going to be on the radar of voters and political leaders for some time and while I have only begun to examine the coal issue in any depth, one thing is clear about the debate over expanding coal exports from Washington ports — a well-funded army of environmental activists are determined to keep the public’s mental picture of coal trapped inside the dated Dickensian meme of soot-caked children in Victorian-era England.

We will be better served to make judgments about expanding coal exports by adjusting our attitudes to consider facts first as we weigh the considerable benefits port expansion could have on job creation and for reviving Washington’s advantage as a West Coast leader for international trade. Brett’s excellent article is a good place to start your reading.

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