Bridging the divide between Washington state and D.C.

By Kris Johnson

On a map, the distance from our Washington to the “other” Washington looks so far away. But, policies being made and debated there hit us here in Washington state.

Take trade policies, for example.

Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson, Association of Washington Business

As one of the most trade-driven states in the nation, what happens with trade agreements has a direct impact on Washington state’s economy.

A recent report found that Washington farmers and other export-dependent producers saw their foreign sales drop by as much as 28 percent during the six months after the United States began imposing tariffs on trading partners.

That’s one reason why the Association of Washington Business and its members have become more engaged than ever on the national front. In fact, AWB staff and 25 business owners and leaders recently returned from the association’s fifth D.C. Fly-in.

Along with visits with members of Washington’s congressional delegation and top staff from their offices, it also included a meeting at the Canadian Embassy with David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, and Guillermo Malpica Soto, head of trade for the Mexican Embassy. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell also was on hand for the meeting.

With trade being integral to the success of Washington’s economy, it was a great opportunity to have a candid discussion on the details of the recently signed tri-lateral United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which will update the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, if ratified by Congress.

The three-day trip also covered ground on the ongoing efforts to protect the Columbia-Snake river hydroelectric dam system that is an important part of our low-carbon energy projection and the need for Congress to act on infrastructure investment.

After lack of movement on an anticipated federal infrastructure investment package last year, we heard directly from our congressional delegation that discussions on a new proposal may be in the works.

That’s good news as we work to shore up not just the roads, bridges and highways that move people and commerce across the state and the globe, but also upgrade water lines, expand broadband and other infrastructure critical to a growing economy and Washington’s diverse industry sector.

A 2017 report AWB collaborated on with associations that represent the state’s cities, ports and counties, estimates $190 billion is needed to upgrade Washington’s infrastructure. And, with the passage of the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation funding and reform package, Washington state is ready to leverage any federal funding that comes our way.

It was also a somber and historic time in the nation’s Capitol. Our trip to D.C. coincided with the state funeral for President George H.W. Bush. As we paid respects to the 41st president, we reflected on this truth: There is more that unites us than divides us.

We can tackle the challenges of our time, however difficult or complex, if we work together to find solutions that work to promote economic freedom and support those in need.

As business leaders and residents in one of the most beautiful places in the nation, if not the world, we’re all advocates for good policies that make our industries and the economy strong to create jobs that support families and make our communities livable.

Kris Johnson is the president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and designated manufacturing association.

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