South Sound wins when doors open to free trade

An employee uses a router as she works in the custom door woodshop at the Northwest Door plant in Frederickson. The local company exports its products to countries including Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
An employee uses a router as she works in the custom door woodshop at the Northwest Door plant in Frederickson. The local company exports its products to countries including Australia, New Zealand and Japan. News Tribune file photo, 2006

The benefits of free trade to our economy are proven and easily seen: small business expansion, job growth, wage increases, lower consumer prices and an overall strengthening of the economy. But the overwhelming benefits of trade can also be tracked through the stories of businesses that call Washington home.

Take, for example, the humble beginnings of Pierce County’s family-owned Northwest Door.

What started in 1946 as a local garage installation company has grown to become one of the nation’s leading garage-door manufacturing businesses, employing almost 300 workers and exporting products to places including Australia, New Zealand and Japan. With a strong international demand for well-made garage doors, especially those with a “Made in America” tag, the possibilities for this Pierce County company are endless.

Like Northwest Door, America’s exporters – 98 percent of which are small businesses ̶ have discovered that consumers outside our borders are willing to pay for high-quality American-made goods and services. But the extent to which consumers abroad are willing to pay for even the finest American products has its limits. That is why strong trade agreements are critical for our job creators to remain competitive globally.

The connection between strong trade agreements and economic growth in the United States and Washington is simple, basic math. When we negotiate a trade agreement with a partner country, we break down tariffs and other barriers that country had in place to limit American businesses from reaching consumers inside its borders.

That was the case when we negotiated a trade agreement with South Korea. Prior to that agreement, U.S. cherry growers faced a 24-percent tariff when they sold their cherries in Korea, but our agreement eliminated this tariff. In the year after the agreement took effect, our cherry exports to Korea nearly doubled and have continued to grow, making Korea our third-largest market for cherries.

We have many more successes. Tacoma-based Brown & Haley was founded in 1912. Its products may now be found in more than 60 countries. With 40 percent of the company’s revenue coming from exports, trade is critical to its success. And because of our trade agreements with Korea and Colombia, Brown & Haley has been able to sell more of its legendary Almond Roca in both countries.

These are just two examples of how trade agreements result in more jobs and more revenue here at home.

It is not only American workers and families who recognize trade is the key to succeeding in the 21st Century economy. Our competitors across the globe are tapping into foreign markets, too, and are negotiating trade agreements with or without us.

If we fail to implement such agreements while our competitors race ahead to aggressively knock down trade barriers and increase their market share, we will lose our competitive edge as costs go up and opportunities drop. Trade agreements also give us tools to enforce our rights and make sure trading partners live up to their obligations.

The best way to help our companies create new jobs and grow is by removing burdensome tariffs and opening new markets, allowing us to design and create more products in Washington, compete on a global scale, establish our standards abroad and bring home more profits.

American workers, businesses and producers create and provide the best products and services in the world. Don’t we want to give them the opportunity to sell in markets around the globe? When we knock down barriers for our exporters, they always compete and win.

This is why we need to get trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership across the finish line. This agreement we negotiated with 11 countries in the Pacific Rim holds great promise for our country, and I am committed to working with the president and my colleagues to ensure the TPP is the best agreement possible and ultimately has the support of Congress.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, represents Washington’s 8th District in Congress. He is chairman of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Trade.