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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Michael Senske: TPP paves way for growth at home

Special to The Spokesman-Review

As the CEO of a local manufacturing company that employs approximately 200 people with good, family-wage jobs, I view the Spokane City Council’s recent decision to pass a resolution opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as incredibly disappointing. To say no to the TPP makes it much more difficult for local businesses to compete on a level playing field with foreign competitors.

Trade has been a cornerstone of Pearson Packaging System’s sustained growth, allowing us to more than double the size of the company in the last decade. This growth has resulted in increased employment in our region, primarily in engineering and highly skilled mechanical assembly disciplines.

When Pearson first started out, in 1955, trade with countries like New Zealand, Vietnam and Singapore was not on our minds. But today, the 11 TPP partner countries, with a population of nearly 500 million people and combined economy of over $10 trillion, provide a significant market for American exporters. Already, Washington businesses export $25.4 billion worth of goods to TPP countries. TPP strengthens our ties to these burgeoning markets, giving our exporters a chance to expand and grow.

Improving global trade rules is not only important for my company, but for Washington state as a whole. Last year our state exported $86 billion in goods, and in 2014 we exported $26 billion in services. Yet, much of this success in trade could not be possible without trade agreements. Currently, Washington exporters face prohibitively high tariffs, such as foreign taxes of 31 percent on Washington wheat and up to 59 percent on Washington-manufactured machinery in TPP countries. We need trade agreements in place that can bring these barriers down, so we can grow our sales in these markets and create jobs here at home.

For example, numerous barriers continue to exist in many international markets that hamper our future growth and competitiveness. Competitors, especially European companies, enjoy the benefits of trade agreements with many of the countries that are party to the proposed TPP. That means that they do not have to pay the fees and tariffs, or overcome the regulatory barriers, that we have to. We must address this problem, and the TPP does just that.

The TPP agreement eliminates tariffs on every Washington-manufactured product exported to TPP countries. With over 500 manufacturing businesses in the Spokane region alone, employing over 15,000 Washington residents, the TPP would have a significant positive impact on the region. Benefits to Washington manufacturers and workers not only include substantial tariff reductions but also improved standards for labor, environmental and intellectual property protection in TPP partner countries that will enable us to better compete with them.

As trade rules in the Pacific Rim and around the world are being rewritten, I urge other Spokane businesses and residents to join us in supporting a free-trade-oriented environment in which our economy can thrive and the standard of living for the families that we support continues to rise. Please support the TPP.

Michael Senske is the CEO of Pearson Packaging Systems.