For the first time in many years, the United States may be on the brink of sustained economic growth. Thanks in large part to a renaissance in manufacturing in the United States — fueled by domestic energy production, world-leading productivity and groundbreaking innovations — job creation is occurring at its fastest pace since the late 1990s. With steady gains in employment and a rebounding domestic manufacturing base, the U.S. is poised to fully move beyond the Great Recession and rebuild a thriving middle class. This progress, however, can easily suffer setbacks through self-inflicted regulatory and legislative wounds.
Manufacturing in America, not just through the products it makes but also the communities it supports, is a crucial driver of the domestic economy. In fact, U.S. manufacturing contributes more than $2 trillion to the American economy — almost 12 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. In Washington state alone, the manufacturing sector supports nearly a million jobs. It is critical that our policymakers — in the halls of Congress and in Olympia — foster an environment that keeps our manufacturers, and our economy as a whole, competitive on a global scale. One fundamental key to achieving this is to grow trade and the infrastructure it requires.
The Pacific Northwest plays a unique role in promoting trade and growing markets for manufacturers abroad. But it could do much better. Nationally, it is vital that the United States regain its mantle of trade leadership through passage of new Trade Promotion Authority legislation, so that we can open new markets in the Asia Pacific and beyond that will support higher-paying jobs throughout this region.
Locally, as one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, Washington specifically must adopt a regulatory environment that encourages exports, rather than limiting them. In fact, without timely action by state policymakers, the Northwest could soon lose billions in new privately funded port investments that are currently under environmental review.
This review process is unprecedented in its scope and, if not managed fairly and timely, would jeopardize projects that are vital to future economic prosperity in the state. These new facilities will grow the region’s capacity to open new markets and benefit all consumers. They will also bring in new business to Washington ports and facilities and support existing Washington manufacturers that rely on healthy, competitive ports to access raw materials. More directly, these projects alone will support thousands of jobs in Washington and generate more than $140 million in tax revenues.
Let’s be clear: Any factor — be it regulatory failure, politics or trade barriers — that hinders the export of any American goods to the Pacific Rim ultimately harms workers in Washington and in America. If we do not actively grow exports — for all goods and commodities — we will watch those jobs and opportunities needlessly lost to competitors abroad.