Existing tariffs — some as high as 20 percent — are a big hurdle, making it difficult to offer competitive prices. The TPP would eliminate tariffs on seafood exported by U.S. companies like ours.
WHILE digging into a basket of fish and chips, it’s unlikely you’re thinking about international trade. However, as Washington state seafood harvesters and processors, a huge part of our industry’s success hinges upon fair access to international markets. That’s why we need the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to create a level playing field for our products.
For more than 100 years, Washington state has been home to a large segment of North Pacific and West Coast commercial-fishing and fish-processing operations. North Pacific fisheries alone account for 60 percent of all seafood caught in the U.S., and in 2014 they generated $8 billion in our state and produced approximately $3 billion worth of seafood exports. These seafood businesses support 24,000 Puget Sound jobs and have a tremendous economic impact on our region. Increased international competitiveness through trade agreements like the TPP help ensure these high-paying jobs stay in Washington.
West Coast and Alaska fisheries are among the most sustainably managed in the world, producing high-quality products that are in demand around the globe. Japan alone annually imports more than $500 million worth of seafood produced by local companies, including Alaska cod, pollock, rockfish, salmon, sole, Atka mackerel, and Pacific whiting products. But in the price-sensitive global seafood market, our Washington-based seafood companies face increasingly fierce competition from foreign competitors seeking to win sales with our historic trading partners and to undercut us in emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere. Existing tariffs — some as high as 20 percent in some TPP countries — are a big hurdle when we export, making it difficult to offer competitive prices. The TPP would eliminate tariffs on seafood exported by U.S. companies like ours.
Just as important, the TPP seeks to raise environmental and labor standards. This is critical for the success of the industry because some foreign competitors operate under weaker fishery-management practices and have poor labor standards with underpaid, underprotected workers. The TPP addresses these issues with fully enforceable, high labor and environmental standards that combat illegal fishing and forced labor.
And it’s not only about fisheries — maritime-support industries and associated businesses like local shipyards also benefit from strong export markets for our products. In the past three years, new vessel construction in our fishing sectors contributed more than $150 million in direct income to local Washington and Alaska shipbuilders. Modernizing Washington’s commercial fishing operations has the potential to bring $10 billion into our state’s economy in the years ahead. A strong export market is the foundation for making such investments.
Breaking down trade barriers is the only way our industry can reach its global potential. Whether you stand for job growth, global competitiveness or the protection of a Northwest way of life, your support for this trade agreement is essential. We urge you to join us in calling on our members of Congress to approve the TPP.