Good morning, and thank you Mic for that kind introduction. Before we begin, I want to acknowledge that the distinguished Ambassador from the Kingdom of Thailand had planned to join us today. I know that His Excellency had hoped to be here for this event, but had to return to Thailand on family matters.
Here on his behalf is Charge d'Affaires Nonguth. We are honored to have you with us today in his stead. I want to welcome and thank another special guest, Mr. Geoff Jackson with the Trade and Development Administration.
I’m excited to be here to discuss the importance of port security to our trade-dependent state. Each year, 6 million containers carrying more than $750 billion in cargo enter the United States through our ports. We all know that our ports enable Washington’s workers, farmers, businesses, and consumers to compete and succeed in marketplaces all around the world. In fact, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma form the third-busiest container load center in the nation. America and our trading partners rely on our ports to drive economic growth and opportunity. That’s why I have made port security one of my highest priorities since September 11th.
We all saw what happened to our airports and to our local economy when commercial aviation was forced to shut down. Here in Washington state, we are still dealing with the economic consequences of September 11th. I’m determined to do all we can to protect our ports from a terrorist attack, and to prevent a tremendous economic blow to Washington state and the nation.
The good news is that we’re making progress in Washington, D.C. getting the federal government to focus on port security. And I’m especially proud that Washington state is leading the way thanks to the leadership at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
There is a real willingness here in Washington state to take on the port security challenge, to work cooperatively, and to find solutions to problems that cross borders, bureaucracies, cultures, and currencies. Washington state is safer because of this leadership.
Of course trade and commerce have always been important to this community. Ten years ago, Seattle hosted the APEC forum annual meeting. Thanks to organizations like the National Center for APEC, Washington state has remained at the forefront of U.S. ties to Asia. Over the last decade, the APEC region has grown in importance, and as partners we’ve benefited in many ways. This year, the APEC nations will meet in Thailand, and the conference is another chance to work together on port security and trade. I hope the upcoming APEC conference will also signal the beginning of talks between the United States and Thailand on a Free Trade Agreement.
The STAR-BEST project is a great example of what we can do together. This effort combines our leadership in port security with our reliance on trade with our APEC partners. It brings together the Thai and U.S. governments, ports in both countries, APEC, and a number of private sector partners. In August, about 50 containers were shipped from Thailand. These containers are traveling through the Port of Seattle to destinations throughout the United States. They’re filled with toys, canned tuna, clothing and auto parts.
Using electronic seals and a tracking system used by the Department of Defense, these containers are being tracked from point of origin to their final destination. This is a model program that we hope will strengthen our trade with the APEC countries and particularly Thailand. Port security projects like this are investments in the economic security of every American and millions of people throughout the world.
I want to again thank everyone who has worked so hard to make this project a success. I also want to thank someone who is not with us today, the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Daryl Johnson. He’s a Washington state native and a great diplomat, and his leadership is with us today as we strengthen our ties between Thailand and the United States. I know he and his team have lent great support to this project and to U.S. participation in APEC.
So thank you all for being here today and for keeping Washington State on the cutting edge of port security. I know that the partnerships we’re celebrating today will mean a stronger economy for Washington state, closer ties between our partners around the world, and better security for our state and nation.