Trade promotion law can help boost Washington’s tech economy

iti_logoThe Olympian, June 10, 2015:

The American technology industry is the envy of the world. A large part of that business success comes from exports. We are blessed in Washington as one of the largest tech hubs in the world.

No other state matches Washington’s combination of tech export value and growth. We export nearly $20 billion in hardware, software, and digital services — growing 10 percent annually. These are tech exports developed by Washington residents and sold to customers around the world.

While we’ve historically been leaders in tech and software, we are facing a new kind of threat to our competitive position.

Economic benefits from high paying jobs and export values are of great interest to foreign governments. India, Singapore, China, Brazil and France are countries trying to replicate what we have in Washington.

Some governments overseas have even implemented laws and regulations that force U.S. companies to exclusively develop products within that country’s borders in order to sell products and services there. Others are creating new rules for software and digital products entering their countries to restrict America’s ability to compete.

Onerous foreign rules and regulations are a direct attack on the 8,500 technology companies and 250,000 employees who work in Washington. We need Congress to take swift action and set rules for trade agreements with foreign countries that ensure U.S. workers and companies are able to compete on equal terms with foreign counterparts.

Legislation before Congress called the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act would help us compete fairly. This bill sets out the trade priorities and the terms by which U.S. trade negotiators must try to achieve these priorities in negotiations.

Among other things, the bill will ensure that trade agreements with other nations prevent our companies from being forced to invest in foreign operations in order to do business there. It also will make certain that software and digital goods are treated the same as physical goods.

The bill also sets high benchmarks for agriculture, transportation equipment and other sectors of the economy to help make sure Washington workers and businesses are not weakened by inferior standards or unfair trade practices overseas. These pivotal assurances will go a long way in ensuring the success of the Washington economy.

Washington Democrats Maria Cantwell and Patti Murray supported this bill in the Senate. And U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn), Rick Larsen (D-Everett) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane) have publicly endorsed this bill. We applaud their leadership and strongly encourage the rest of the state’s congressional delegation to stand with them in support of this critically important legislation.

The continued growth of Washington’s economy and technology sector depends on free trade and fair trade — Trade Priorities and Accountability Act ensures we have both.

Michael Schutzler is CEO of Washington Technology Industry Association based in Seattle. Dean Garfield is president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the global voice for the technology sector’s leading companies in Washington, D.C.

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