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TRADE: Murray Calls for Bipartisan Work to Promote Trade, Global Competitiveness

Nov 10 2014

At WCIT Conference, Murray outlines priorities for promoting trade and global competitiveness, calls for bipartisanship to create jobs and make key investments

Murray: “The task ahead of us in Congress is to build on that foundation of working across the aisle, because it is very clear that when it comes to our economic competitiveness, there is a lot we need to get done—for Washington state and for our country as a whole.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) Conference to discuss steps the next Congress can take to promote trade and global competitiveness. Murray called for both parties to build on bipartisan work done this year on the budget, appropriations, and other issues, and work across the aisle to create jobs and make critical investments in our future.

Murray highlighted priorities including monitoring Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to ensure an agreement works for Washington state, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, and finding a long-term solution to reform the Harbor Maintenance Tax.  Murray also called for fixing our broken tax code in a way that works for families and businesses, and making investments in key areas like education, infrastructure, and research to ensure that Washington state, and the country as a whole, can compete and win in the 21st century global economy.

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s Remarks:

“I want to be very clear that—no matter which party is in control—Washington state families and businesses are expecting their government to work for them and invest in their priorities. This past year, that meant we in Congress needed to work across the aisle and make some responsible compromises on issues like the budget. And frankly, that is exactly what we will need to do in this incoming Congress too. I will continue to focus on finding ways to work with my colleagues, from any party, to create jobs and invest in Washington state priorities.”

“And today, I’m looking forward to talking with you about some of the key challenges I see ahead of us in terms of promoting trade and competitiveness, and the steps that I will be pushing for in Congress so that we can meet those challenges head-on. “

“The task ahead of us in Congress is to build on that foundation of working across the aisle. Because it is very clear that when it comes to our economic competitiveness, there is a lot we need to get done—for Washington state and for our country as a whole. Especially because, while we dealt with one fiscal battle after another in recent years, other countries focused on investing in their infrastructure, their workforce, and their future economic strength. We can’t afford to fall behind.”

“As you all know, American-made goods and services are among the best in the world, and there is bipartisan agreement in Congress that we need to ensure our businesses continue to have access to expanding foreign markets. To do this, we need to continue to build on our success in mature markets, and also find ways to open new, emerging markets for our products. Approximately one-third of Washington exports already go to countries involved in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which could eventually knock down barriers to many important, growing markets across the globe. We need to closely examine and consider any agreement that could reduce market barriers to Washington-made goods and Washington-grown products, and offer Washington companies opportunities for expansion.”

“Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank goes hand in hand with this fight for leadership in global markets. As we expand into new markets, we need to do everything we can to help businesses large and small compete effectively and send their products around the world…This is an issue that Democrats and Republicans have been able to work together on in the past, and I am hopeful we will be able to secure a full reauthorization in the coming months.”

“…it is clear that a longer term solution to reform the HMT is needed. The Maritime Goods Movement Act, which I introduced last fall, is just that…My bill works to address inequities in the HMT, enhance our economic competitiveness, and support jobs here in Washington state. But as we’ve seen, moving legislative changes to the HMT forward is a challenge. Fixing this problem will require support from a diverse set of my colleagues and a significant financial investment. I am committed to sitting down, making the case, and having the hard conversations with my colleagues in Washington, D.C. on how to create a new system that ensures all our ports get the investments they desperately need.” 

“We also need to encourage innovation and economic growth through our tax policy. A broken tax code isn’t good for business, and it’s not good for the economy. This is going to be a major focus in Congress over the next year—and I am going to fight hard to make sure our tax code is fair, and that it works for families and businesses here in Washington.”

Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:

“Thank you Phil, for that kind introduction. And thank you all for being here.

“I am truly grateful to WCIT for once again hosting an important and productive conversation about the outlook for trade policy, and what we can do to secure Washington state’s continued leadership in the global economy.

“Some of you may have heard that we had an election last week. We are all thrilled that those TV ads are off the air—though some of us are a little less thrilled with the results. But in all seriousness—we’re here today because we know trade is absolutely essential to job creation and growth in our state. And, when it comes to this and other issues, there are questions about how things will change in the next Congress.  I want to be very clear that—no matter which party is in control—Washington state families and businesses are expecting their government to work for them and invest in their priorities.

“This past year, that meant we in Congress needed to work across the aisle and make some responsible compromises on issues like the budget. And frankly, that is exactly what we will need to do in this incoming Congress too. I will continue to focus on finding ways to work with my colleagues, from any party, to create jobs and invest in Washington state priorities.

“And today, I’m looking forward to talking with you about some of the key challenges I see ahead of us in terms of promoting trade and competitiveness, and the steps that I will be pushing for in Congress so that we can meet those challenges head-on. 

“As many of you may remember, when I spoke with you at the 2012 Washington Trade Conference, we were staring down yet another fiscal cliff that threatened to derail our ongoing recovery.

“I shared my strong belief that we needed to move beyond brinkmanship and governing-by-crisis, and work together to make some responsible compromises on the budget, so that we could focus on confronting pressing economic challenges, and also, critically, restore families’ and businesses’ confidence that their elected officials really can work together and get things done.

“As you can probably remember—that didn’t happen as quickly as I had hoped. We faced a lot of resistance getting the two parties together to even begin working on a budget agreement.

“But after the government shutdown finally ended last year, I was proud to sit down with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in a budget conference. We worked together. We compromised. Neither of us got everything we wanted—but we put politics aside and reached a two-year budget deal that prevented another government shutdown, and rolled back devastating cuts from sequestration.

“That bipartisan budget deal moved us away from the constant crises. It showed the American people that we can do our jobs when we are willing to work together.

“It did something else too—it showed that you can reach a compromise without abandoning your core principles—and paved the way for some other important agreements.

“After Chairman Ryan and I reached a deal on the budget, Senator Mikulski was able to work with her House Republican counterpart to complete the full appropriations process for 2014.

“Senator Stabenow was able to work across the aisle to finally pass the Farm Bill.

“Senator Boxer was able to pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, or WRRDA, into law.  

“And I was able to lead a bipartisan reauthorization of our nation’s primary workforce development programs, which President Obama signed into law this summer.

“This bipartisan progress helped keep our recovery going—and supported growth in Washington state, too. The budget deal I reached with Chairman Ryan provided more certainty for the many businesses here that have federal contracts.

“Senator Boxer’s WRRDA bill took important steps toward reforming the Harbor Maintenance Tax to keep our workforce strong and our ports competitive in the global maritime economy.

“And through the annual appropriations process, we were able to secure funding for Washington state priorities like: the Sound Transit University Link project, the TIGER program, which supported a $20 million investment in the Port of Seattle to ensure it can stay competitive, and new investments in innovative research at our universities.

“The task ahead of us in Congress is to build on that foundation of working across the aisle.

“Because it is very clear that when it comes to our economic competitiveness, there is a lot we need to get done—for Washington state and for our country as a whole. Especially because, while we dealt with one fiscal battle after another in recent years, other countries focused on investing in their infrastructure, their workforce, and their future economic strength.

“We can’t afford to fall behind. And I’m going to discuss some commonsense priorities I will be pushing for in Congress to help ensure that we don’t.

“International trade plays an important role in our competitiveness agenda, and is an issue Democrats and Republicans have been able to find common ground on before.

“There are several areas that I am focused on in particular.

“As you all know, American-made goods and services are among the best in the world, and there is bipartisan agreement in Congress that we need to ensure our businesses continue to have access to expanding foreign markets. To do this, we need to continue to build on our success in mature markets, and also find ways to open new, emerging markets for our products.

“Approximately one-third of Washington exports already go to countries involved in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which could eventually knock down barriers to many important, growing markets across the globe.

“We need to closely examine and consider any agreement that could reduce market barriers to Washington-made goods and Washington-grown products, and offer Washington companies opportunities for expansion.

“An agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership will affect many sectors of our economy, and aligning the trade policy of countries as diverse as Japan, Brunei, and Australia requires a lot of work and dedication. But it will also provide important opportunities to open markets hungry for U.S. goods.

“There is still a lot of work to be done—I talked about this deal with you in 2012, and a number of outstanding issues remain.

“So while this work continues, Congress will continue to monitor negotiations, and consider Trade Promotion Authority. Trade Promotion Authority allows Congress to clearly convey our priorities for trade negotiations to the Administration. It also allows us to lay out parameters for consultation with Congress. And by laying out those priorities and a framework for further discussion, we can set the stage for increasing exports and supporting good-paying jobs here at home.     

“In the months ahead there will be a robust conversation about these and other trade bills, and about the need to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance and other provisions to ensure our workers and businesses remain competitive in a global market. 

“Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank goes hand in hand with this fight for leadership in global markets. As we expand into new markets, we need to do everything we can to help businesses large and small compete effectively and send their products around the world.

“Here in Washington state, the Export-Import Bank supports more than 85,000 jobs, many in small and mid-sized companies, and has helped more than 180 exporters sell their goods internationally on a level playing field.

“So I was proud to cosponsor a five-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank this summer to provide certainty for Washington’s exporters, and their overseas customers.

“This is an issue that Democrats and Republicans have been able to work together on in the past, and I am hopeful we will be able to secure a full reauthorization in the coming months.

“I will also continue to be focused on confronting the serious challenges we face in the fight to maintain and grow our ports.

“Everyone here knows the important role ports play as job creators and economic engines throughout our state. We need to make sure that as demand continues to grow and as our economy continues to improve, our ports have the resources to keep up.

“As I mentioned, I am proud that I was able to include important reforms to the Harbor Maintenance Tax, or HMT, in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The final bill included the Rebate Provision – which I authored – to provide $25 million to donor ports like Seattle and Tacoma and help them remain competitive.

“While these changes were a good first step – and got Congress on the record regarding the need to reform the system – it is clear that a longer term solution to reform the HMT is needed.

“The Maritime Goods Movement Act, which I introduced last fall, is just that. It would replace the HMT with a user fee that is fully available to Congress to provide for port operation and maintenance. In addition, it would ensure funds collected are allocated fully and more equitably, address the issue of cargo diversion, and create opportunities to make improvements to the intermodal transportation system and to our small ports.

“My bill works to address inequities in the HMT, enhance our economic competitiveness, and support jobs here in Washington state.

“But as we’ve seen, moving legislative changes to the HMT forward is a challenge. Fixing this problem will require support from a diverse set of my colleagues and a significant financial investment. I am committed to sitting down, making the case, and having the hard conversations with my colleagues in Washington, D.C. on how to create a new system that ensures all our ports get the investments they desperately need.

“As we work to compete for new international markets and send our businesses’ products around the globe, we also need to take a close look at the investments we are making in our nation’s future.

“One of the most critical investments we can make is in education. In this increasingly global economy, a good education is more than just a pathway to opportunity – it’s a prerequisite for success. 

“Ensuring a quality education for every American is essential to our future as a nation. That means we need to improve access to affordable higher education, including two-year colleges and technical training. And it also means finally reforming and reauthorizing No Child Left Behind—which I am committed to working on until it gets done.

“We also have to make sure our current workforce has the skills and training they need to fill those 21st century jobs we want our businesses to create. I was proud to work with Senator Isakson of Georgia to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act earlier this year. Our bill reforms federal workforce programs so that our workers are better prepared for the jobs of the future—and I will continue to build on this strong step going forward.

“We also can’t afford to fall behind when it comes to research and innovation.

“Other countries are ramping up their investments.  They are already seeing returns—and while I know this is a place where some often look for cuts—we can’t afford to sacrifice our long-term prosperity for short term savings.

“Any good businessperson knows that the last areas you want to cut are those that help your business grow over the long term. Slashing those investments may make things look a little better in the short term—but in the long run, all you’ve done is undercut your potential for growth.

“The same is true when it comes to our infrastructure. When we slash investments in infrastructure like roads and bridges—we aren’t really saving money at all—we are making things worse! And this kind of short-sighted approach also impedes efforts to move goods to market, both here at home and overseas.

“Families and businesses across the country understand this, and I’m glad to say that elected officials on both sides of the aisle understand it as well. We are long overdue for a full reauthorization of our surface transportation programs, and I will push to keep this at the top of the list.

“We also need to encourage innovation and economic growth through our tax policy. A broken tax code isn’t good for business, and it’s not good for the economy. This is going to be a major focus in Congress over the next year—and I am going to fight hard to make sure our tax code is fair, and that it works for families and businesses here in Washington.

“There are many other areas where we need to make progress in the coming months as well. But I think these priorities in particular will help secure strong economic growth in Washington state. And I believe they are priorities where Congress should be able to put partisanship aside and work together for the good of our country.

“Now, that’s not to say that getting any of this done will be easy—because compromise is never easy. But our bipartisan work over the last year, on issues from the budget to agriculture to workforce training, shows that when Democrats and Republicans are willing to put politics aside and do what’s best for those we represent—we can deliver.

“And I plan to continue working with anyone, from any party, who is willing to work with me to create jobs and deliver results for our families and communities.

“I know all of you here today will be critical partners in this effort, now and for decades to come.

“I want to thank you for all you do, and I look forward to our continued work together.”