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TRADE: Murray Warns Against "Walling Off" Global Trade In Economic Recovery Efforts

Mar 04 2009

In speech before business leaders, including Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, and Microsoft, Murray cautions against protectionism during critical time

(Washington, D.C.) – Tonight, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered an important speech to business leaders from major Washington state and national companies that focused on the need to continue global trade during economic recovery efforts. In her speech, Murray discussed the impact shutting down trade would have on Washington state, the nation, and the global economy. Murray also highlighted the need for smart trade policies that ensure American workers are treated fairly and that ensure labor and environmental standards are enforced in trade agreements.

“It’s going to take a global effort to rebuild,” Senator Murray said in her speech to business leaders. “And we absolutely cannot afford to shut down our markets to trade. If our economy is a tightly knit fabric of many countries, protectionism is the loose thread that threatens to tear it apart.

“While we absolutely must ensure American workers are treated fairly and also enforce the labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, we should not limit the flow of foreign goods to our country.  To do so would lead other countries to retaliate.”

Senator Murray’s speech was delivered at the Emergency Committee for American Trade’s (ECAT) 2009 Trade and Investment Leadership Award dinner. ECAT is a business group that supports measures designed to promote economic growth through the expansion of international trade and investment. ECAT’s members include Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, and Microsoft.  Senator Murray was presented with the 2009 ECAT Trade and Investment Leadership Award tonight for her “work in opening new markets through strong pro-growth international trade and investment policies.”

More on the Emergency Committee for Trade Awards visit

Senator Murray’s full remarks follow:

It’s good to be here with you.  I learned the importance of international trade at a very early age.

My dad ran a five and ten cents shop on Main Street in the small town of Bothell, Washington, and his business often brought him to the trade fairs in Seattle where he bought some of the goods that were sold in his store. I grew up knowing that trade was how my family put food on the table.  And I’ve never forgotten how important it was to my family and to the community around me.

And as a public official, I have seen the impact it has on everyone in my home state. Whether we’re selling airplanes, apples, or operating systems – or buying goods to put on the shelves of our stores – trade is central to our state’s economy and to every family and every community.

I am proud to work every day in Congress to support smart, open trade policies.  And I’m very proud to accept this award.  Thank you.

Protectionism Threatens our Global Economy

As I speak, the future of our global economy is a big question that all of us are trying to address.

One thing the economic crisis has taught us is that – probably more than ever before – the world’s economy is very tightly woven. It’s going to take a global effort to rebuild.  And we absolutely cannot afford to shut down our markets to trade. 

If our economy is a tightly knit fabric of many countries, protectionism is the loose thread that threatens to tear it apart. It is a very real threat.  And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

We Need to Change the Perception About Trade

I think it’s completely understandable that people are scared about what the future holds – especially those in industries that have been hard hit by the global recession. In their eyes, our position in the world is falling.  They see the solution to be walling off our country.

We already saw some in Congress move in this direction by trying to insert Buy America provisions in the Recovery Act.  Fortunately, we were able to change the wording in the Senate bill to ensure we will not violate any trade agreements.

You and I know that international trade has actually been one of the few bright spots in our economy that likely kept the recession from hitting harder and faster. But many people don’t see it that way.  When many Americans think of trade, they picture a T-shirt factory that relocated to El Salvador – or the call center that has been outsourced to India. They don’t see the jobs that are created because trade has – exponentially – expanded the market for our products.

While we absolutely must ensure American workers are treated fairly and also enforce the labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, we should not limit the flow of foreign goods to our country.  To do so would lead other countries to retaliate. That would shut down markets that corporations from Boeing to Weyerhaeuser depend on – and that would spell disaster for my home state, for the nation, and for the global economy.

So how do we change that mindset?

First, it’s critical that you get out the word about the benefits of trade. 
We need you to make it clear to your lawmakers and their constituents that open trade means jobs, and it means a healthier economy for everyone.

Next, we need to seize every opportunity we have to break down barriers to trade with other countries.  The U.S. is hosting APEC in a few years.  That is an ideal opportunity to aggressively tackle some of the most pressing trade issues, like global health and security challenges.

But most importantly, we must continue to take bold steps to strengthen our economy from within so that we can maintain our leadership in the global marketplace. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a beginning.  It’s already starting to put people back to work.

But we also have to restore the health of our financial systems, stem the tide of foreclosures – which is still rising – and end the era of irresponsibility and greed that brought us to this point. We need to keep up our investments in our infrastructure, and in energy and health care, which will leave our country stronger and more attractive to business.

And – most importantly – we need to ensure that America has the best-educated, best-trained workers anywhere in the world. The Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a beginning.  But what we need goes far beyond improving schools and universities.

We need to bring together industry, labor, workforce leaders, and schools and to ensure that what our students are learning is preparing for them to compete in the international economy. At the end of the day, jobs and industry will go where the best-trained, most-competitive workers are. 

I know many of you agree.

Last fall, I introduced legislation that would provide incentives to bring leaders in all of these areas together. It was the result of discussions I had throughout my home state with people from across the spectrum – including many of you.

It’s critical that we move forward quickly to ensure our workers and our students of today are learning the skills they will need in the future. I look forward to working with you on this and on other efforts that will help strengthen our economy for the long-term.

Thank you again for this award.