Trade protectionism from presidential candidates on the left and right would be economic nihilism for the trade-dependent Puget Sound region.
TRADE protectionism, a job-killing orthodoxy for Washington state, is blooming like cherry blossoms on the presidential campaign trail. As Democratic candidates pivot to Washington state for the March 26 caucuses, and Republicans look to the May 24 primary, trade proponents must speak up and remind voters that protectionism is economic nihilism for the state.
Candidates in both parties express an astonishing lack of knowledge on trade. Among the Republicans, only Ohio Gov. John Kasich is an unabashed supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would, in part, further open 11 Pacific Rim nations to Washington state goods. Donald Trump demands a tariff wall and trade wars, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigns as the economic isolationist-in-chief.
On the left, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ scorching criticism of the Export-Import Bank, which provides loan guarantees in international trade deals, mirrors the loopy rhetoric of the tea party. Hillary Clinton displays political callowness in flip-flopping on her previous support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
These self-defeating economic policies should be called out and challenged when the candidates campaign in the Pacific Northwest.
Trade is “in the DNA of the region,” said Doug Kemper, director of international banking at Washington Trust Bank. Washington’s opportunistic approach to trade goes well beyond Boeing. This is the leading export state, per capita, and business activity from exports accounted for 30 percent of the state’s new jobs over the past 30 years, according to the state Department of Commerce.
It is particularly frustrating when candidates treat the Ex-Im Bank like a political chew toy. Sanders, whom The Seattle Times editorial board endorsed for his other strong positions, blasts it as “the bank of Boeing” while ignoring the jobs lost when the region’s biggest private employer his hampered selling planes abroad.
Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s advocacy for shutting it ignore the work the Ex-Im Bank does on behalf of small businesses, from Hilliard’s Brewery in Ballard, which sought Ex-Im Bank’s help expanding in Europe, to Mukilteo-based Vista Clara, which sells expensive groundwater detection equipment to foreign governments.
The protectionist saber-rattling threatens the backbone of Washington’s economy. When candidates begin flying in — presumably on Boeing jets — ask them why local jobs should be lost in pursuit of protectionist policy.