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Washington state governor offers his view on trade wars and 'America First'

  • Last year $90 billion in merchandise shipped through Washington ports, including more than a third of all U.S. aerospace exports.
  • 40 percent of the state's business recruitment and investment pipeline are international firms.
  • As part of its leads in technology and climate policy, the state's governor has signed an executive order to test self-driving cars on its roadways.

Global connections and a strong international relationship are among the things that make Washington a great state for business and help us maintain one of the most vibrant economies in the nation.

Washington led all states in GDP growth and exports per capita last year. In 2016, $90 billion in merchandise shipped through Washington ports, including more than a third of all U.S. aerospace exports. We are the most trade-dependent state in America, with at least 1 in 3 jobs tied to international trade. Our seaports are a full day closer to Asia than Los Angeles–Long Beach.

Workers assemble a Boeing 737 airplane at the company's factory in Renton, Washington
Mike Kane | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers assemble a Boeing 737 airplane at the company's factory in Renton, Washington

As U.S. trade policy was clouded with uncertainty following last year's presidential election, we stayed the course here in "the other Washington." The simple reality is that nearly 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States.

We measure competitiveness against other nations and regions of the world, not just other U.S. states. Washington is wide-open for business, from aerospace and advanced agriculture to clean technology, information technology and global health.

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Typically, 40 percent of the cases in our recruitment and investment pipeline are international firms. We conduct international trade missions and business development work all over the world — most recently in Spain, Japan, China, Canada, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom and France — and I look forward to being in Switzerland in the fall. We regularly welcome inbound delegations exploring targeted opportunities that require the kind of skilled workforce and exceptional quality of life Washington state is known for.

Embracing business beyond our borders is second nature. Our economic and cultural ties with Japan date back a century. The Port of Seattle received the first cargo ship from China to the United States in 1979, and the first state trade mission to China was organized and headed by then-Gov Dixy Lee Ray.

"The simple reality is that nearly 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the U.S."

This global point of view extends to action on climate change and the economic potential inherent in pursuing a clean energy, low-carbon future for our children. I am proud to stand with my fellow governors Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York in founding the United States Climate Alliance. At least 12 states and Puerto Rico have joined us, committing to the goals of the Paris Accord. Our action is creating new businesses and jobs now, and that will only increase as nations move to combat the impact of global warming.

Protecting the environment and providing jobs are compatible. The American Jobs Project calls global demand for advanced energy and enabling solutions for "the biggest market opportunity of our era." We cannot wait to invest. Our Clean Energy Fund has helped Washington companies lead the way in a full range of energy storage and control technologies. Major initiatives in other key sectors are inspiring fruitful public-private collaborations, bringing the most promising technologies to life.

Self-driving cars and economic growth

Self-driving cars may sound futuristic, but Washington state is leading the way right now on developing autonomous vehicles that could help save lives, reduce carbon emissions and create jobs. My executive order supports safe testing and operation of AVs on our public roadways and enables organizations developing AV equipment and technology. Just as we did in aerospace and information and communications technology, cultivating emerging 21st-century technologies will promote economic growth.

These opportunities have no borders. British Columbia premier Christy Clark and I affirmed this by creating the Cascadia Innovation Corridor to promote our tech industries through talent, transportation and innovation. Washingtonians have always looked outward and forward for opportunities. Our culture of entrepreneurship continues to attract and build business legends, such as Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Costco and Starbucks. Our diverse economy multiplies our strengths and bolsters our ability to weather inevitable downturns in our interconnected world economy.

Sustained growth requires ongoing support for small business and broadening economic benefits in communities throughout the state. Above all, we invest in our greatest asset: people. Washington engages with employers, including our major military bases, to ensure there is a ready and talented workforce available with the skills to adapt quickly to rapidly changing needs.

My top priority as governor of this great state is continuing to grow our thriving economic climate that spurs job growth and keeps us at the top echelon for years to come.

— By Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2017 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.

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