Seattle Companies Speak With U.S. Trade Rep About Asian Markets

Aug 12, 2014

Seattle is having a good year for exports. Boeing has a backlog that will keep it making planes for years. Smaller companies tied to the export market are also doing well.

And they would like to keep it that way.

On Tuesday, some Seattle business leaders got the chance to speak with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who made a rare appearance in Seattle to talk about opportunities in Asia.

"There's no state, there's no city like Seattle that gets trade and understands what's at stake in terms of engaging with the international economy and opening up markets abroad," Froman said.

On this leg of his multi-city tour, Froman went from the agricultural heart of eastern Washington to a factory floor in Sodo. The factory belongs to Cascade Designs, which got its start inventing lightweight camping equipment. Now the company is branching into portable water treatment for the developing world.

Pete Haggerty is a vice president of Cascade Designs. He says it was a great opportunity to share information with the man who recommends trade policy to the President.

"Even a small company like ours is very connected to the world, to global health, to issues of commerce," he said. Among those issues is getting new trade agreements that will raise labor and environmental standards around the world, including Asia.

Froman says these are social issues, but they are also good for trade: "So that our workers and firms can compete successfully."

Seattle's roster of world-leading companies means we're already competing well.

Tay Yoshitani is chief executive of the Port of Seattle. He heard Froman speak at a lunch gathering.

He says it's important not to take all this good fortune for granted.

"You know, there are other regions in the world that would love to have the benefits that we have," he said. "And are going to pursue it."