By Sen. Paull Shin
Special to Northwest Asian Weekly
Now more than ever, we must focus on our export market to enhance economic opportunity, because in this time of great uncertainty, strengthening international relationships can help us pull through.
Our economically diverse state has the distinct advantage of physical location, which encourages exporting goods to our neighbors and friends. In fact, our ports are viewed by many as the gateway to Asia, and our access to the Canadian marketplace could not be better.
Washington agricultural exports topped $14.8 billion for 2008 — a robust 60 percent increase from 2007. We supply about 70 percent of all apples consumed in the United States, and a third of our crop is shipped to 30 different nations. Our internationally recognized wines are found in all 50 states and in more than 40 countries, supporting 14,000 jobs.
These are but a few examples of goods Washington is known for across the country and abroad that brings billions of dollars to our local economy.
Our strong international business presence is not just a tribute to the goods we produce but to the relationships we build. I have always believed in the value of face-to-face interaction. Nothing replaces the time spent and the trust built by looking someone in the eye as you propose a business opportunity.
Especially during this halting economic crisis, we must strengthen our relationships. You might surprise yourself with the business you can expand, and the problems you can amend, by getting to know the person on the other end of the phone. I have learned that whether it’s a small business practice or a corporate merger, people want to do business with people they know.
In many countries, business is all about who you know. Personal connections seal the deal. Without a personal relationship, American companies can’t sell their products abroad.
That’s where our state government steps in. The Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development (CTED) has proven to be a great resource to Washington business, connecting small businesses to buyers and sellers around the world and providing technical assistance to navigate the challenges of selling in foreign markets.
Our state does an outstanding job.
In our own backyard, CTED has helped companies such as Mukilteo’s Rich Nature connect to buyers in Germany and Japan. We have nine offices overseas in rapidly growing markets that specifically help Washington businesses sell their goods abroad, but I believe we can do more.
Senate leadership asked me to chair a new subcommittee to identify ways to increase trade and expand the export market. Having spent a lot of time abroad, I’ve witnessed the value of diplomacy. I am proud to chair the Senate International Relations Subcommittee, which provides a forum to discuss the variety of ways we can enhance our global opportunities.
This session, we are exploring specific ways we can leverage Washington’s strategic location and build relationships abroad — to focus on port expansion, trade opportunities, international education, diplomacy, and tourism.
I have met with universities, local industry leaders, port executives, and numerous other groups, gaining a deeper understanding of our state’s diverse economy and the opportunities that exist. At the end of this session, I look forward to reporting back to the Legislature with a list of ways to strengthen and expand Washington’s international commerce.
We must embrace our diverse backgrounds and business talents. This practice will support our strong export market and enhance business opportunities. If we can create stronger networks and capitalize on our international relationships, I have no doubt we will be able to pull through these tough times. (end)
Paull Shin serves on the following committees: Economic Development, Trade & Innovation, Higher Education & Workforce Development, Agriculture & Rural Economic Development. He also chairs the International Relations Subcommittee. For more information on the 2009 legislative session, please visit www.sdc.wa.gov/senators/shin.
Paull Shin can be reached at email@example.com