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Nice doing business with EU: Prospect of a new trade deal looms large for Yakima Valley

A self-propelled harvester without an attached unloader conveyor belt at Blue Line Manufacturing, in Moxee, Wash., on Friday, August 3, 2018. (Amanda Ray / Yakima Herald-Republic)
A self-propelled harvester without an attached unloader conveyor belt at Blue Line Manufacturing, in Moxee, Wash., on Friday, August 3, 2018. (Amanda Ray / Yakima Herald-Republic)

In 2016, $172.6 million of products and services from Yakima County were exported to the European Union, which consists of 28 member nations.

That’s nearly three times what was exported to the EU in 2005. However, the percentage of all exports that go to the EU has been relatively stable – hovering around 10 to 15 percent – in each of the past 10 years, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Still, the European Union is an important trade partner for Yakima County and Washington state.

That’s why the announcement by President Donald Trump last month that the U.S. would work toward a trade deal with the European Union is viewed as a positive development for the local business community.

The European Union has been a growth market for Manhasset Specialty Co., a Yakima music stand manufacturer. The company relies heavily on distributor partnerships to spread brand awareness there, said general manager Dan Roberts.

“We wouldn’t want anti-American sentiment to spread,” he said.

There are those who are skeptical whether any trade deal between the U.S. and European Union would solve long-standing issues, including a regulatory environment that has made export difficult – even prohibitive – for local tree fruit growers in recent years.

At the same time, European tree fruit production has increased, reducing U.S. exports and making the EU a direct competitor with the U.S. in other export markets.

Many of the packing lines and other equipment used by the fruit industry in the Yakima Valley were made by European companies, including French company Maf Industries, which operates a plant in Union Gap.

Other agricultural commodities are faring well in Europe. The growing popularity of craft brewing in the European Union countries, such as the United Kingdom and Germany, has led to more hop shipments to the region.

It remains to be seen what trade deal, if there is a deal, will come out of talks between the U.S. and the EU. But the consensus is that trade will benefit the Yakima Valley, and a deal could serve as a template for other disputes, such as a much larger one with China.


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