By Kris Johnson
In December, Washington employers and manufacturers had a number of items on their holiday wish list. The reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, were at the top.
It looks like wishes do come true.
When Association of Washington Business members traveled to Washington,
D.C., for our annual AWB D.C. Fly-in last December, we met with members of
Congress from both parties to discuss these and other issues. As the most
trade-driven state in the nation, Washington has a lot at stake when it comes
to trade policy.
The Export-Import Bank plays a critical role in supporting the
manufacturing sector. Hundreds of Washington manufacturers rely on its
insurance and loan products and services to bring their products to markets
around the globe.
We’re not just talking about large corporations. Most companies that use
the bank are small- and medium-sized employers located in communities across
the state, from Anacortes to Yakima.
Founded in 1934, the Export-Import Bank requires periodic
reauthorization by Congress to operate. The most recent reauthorization ended
Sept. 30, but the charter was extended through a stopgap spending bill.
Shortly before the D.C. Fly-in, the House passed legislation reauthorizing
the bank. About two weeks later, the Senate followed suit. On Dec. 20,
President Trump signed a spending package that included reauthorization of the
bank through 2026, giving employers the certainty and support they need to
enter into export agreements.
A few weeks later, manufacturers, farmers, tech employers and others had
a second reason to celebrate as the Senate voted to approve the USMCA, sending
it to the president’s desk for signature. The president signed the agreement in
The USMCA modernizes the 26-year-old North American Free Trade
Agreement. NAFTA removed trade barriers and tariffs between the U.S., Mexico
and Canada, allowing trade to flourish among the three countries.
In 2017 alone, Washington exports to Canada and Mexico totaled $7.7
billion and $2 billion, respectively. The state’s top exports included computer
and electronic products, processed food, primary metal products and paper.
The USMCA builds on NAFTA’s success while addressing issues that have arisen
since the agreement’s passage.
It raises standards and improves transparency. It ends anti-U.S.
discrimination from foreign governments and supports high-paying jobs for
Americans. It improves environmental and labor protections and adds
intellectual property provisions.
The world has changed
dramatically since 1994, especially in terms of technological innovation.
People were barely using email, and the first iPhone wouldn’t hit the market
for another 13 years. A new trade agreement will better meet the needs of
today’s global economy.
The combination of the USMCA and extension of the Export-Import Bank charter
are welcome news for Washington’s economy and a positive way to start the new
year. It’s time to bring trade into the 21st century so our employers, our
workers and our economy can continue to thrive.
Kris Johnson is president of the Association of
Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers
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