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Words From Washington

Improving trade relations will spur economic growth here

Central Washington produces much of the fruit and vegetables that are consumed not just in the United States, but around the world. As we saw with world leaders gathering in Pittsburgh last week for the G-20 meetings, trade is an important item on every nation's agenda.

And for Central Washington, whether it is apples, cherries, asparagus, mint or potatoes, agriculture production creates thousands of jobs throughout the region.

Many of our agriculture products are destined for overseas markets. In fact, fully one out of every three jobs in Washington state is dependent on foreign trade. This means that international trade decisions made by the federal government have a large impact on the livelihoods and economy of our local communities.

At a time when so many are out of work, I have serious concerns that the Administration and this Congress are failing to take steps that would result in more exports and the creation of new jobs.

Over the past several years our government has negotiated trade agreements with several foreign countries, including Colombia, Panama and South Korea. While these agreements will benefit Washington, they have yet to be agreed to by Congress. This is important because many products from Colombia, for example, come into our country duty-free, yet ours are heavily taxed when exported to theirs.

These agreements would remove the tariffs, leveling the playing field and allowing for more of our Washington state products to be shipped overseas.

Unfortunately this Congress has blocked the Colombia free trade agreement (which would immediately provide duty-free access for our apples, pears and cherries), hurting our trading partners and Washington state exporters. While we do nothing, our exporters are losing ground to competitors that have approved trade agreements.

I have also been working to find a timely solution to the imposition of Mexican tariffs on Central Washington agriculture products. These tariffs are having a negative impact on jobs in Central Washington and across rural America. It is vital to our economy that a resolution with Mexico is reached soon that keeps our roads safe and allows for fair trade. The longer it takes for the Administration to find a solution, the more that the economy of Central Washington - and pear growers in particular - will be harmed by these tariffs.

Our government should be supporting policies that stimulate economic growth and trade. Instead of borrowing from future generations to try and create jobs through government spending, it is time to take proactive steps that will enable United States exporters to compete abroad and create jobs here at home.

- Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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