Gov. Gregoire, Treasury Secretary Geithner in Tacoma for trade expansion discussion

Gov. Chris Gregoire today welcomed U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to the Port of Tacoma where the two discussed ways to expand trading opportunities.

“As Secretary Geithner works with the Obama Administration to significantly increase American exports, it’s only natural he comes to Washington state,” Gregoire said. “We are the most trade dependent state in the nation, and on a per-capita basis, the number one exporter in the United States. While our state is already familiar with global trade, we have the potential, and the need, to expand. Increasing our exports means new jobs for Washingtonians — from design work, to manufacturing to shipping.”

“Growing exports is critical to growing the economy,” said Secretary Geithner. “Our job as the government is to create the conditions for American business to excel. Our job is to help American businesses invest and grow. Our job is to help Americans get back to work.”

Geithner is working closely on President Obama’s National Export Initiative, the president’s plan to double American exports over the next five years. He’s in Washington state to learn more about the impact trade has on the state’s economy before he travels to China later this week for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

“As the gateway to foreign markets for American-made goods, ports sustain jobs throughout the nation,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Don Johnson. “We appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate how the Port of Tacoma supports the National Export Initiative through its connections to Asia.”

During tours and roundtable discussions at a Boeing manufacturing site and the Port of Tacoma, Geithner took the opportunity to hear directly from large corporations, labor representatives, small businesses and local officials about the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector, export opportunities and obstacles to growth.

While in Washington, Secretary Geithner toured the Boeing manufacturing site in Renton, which, as of November 2008, has produced 42 percent of the world’s current jetliner fleet. After touring the 737 factory, Geithner met with Boeing management, labor representatives and small businesses in the Boeing supply chain, including Hobart Machined Products, a small woman-owned business that provides complex machining support; PCSI Design, a small minority-owned business that provides design and engineering services; and Onamac, a small business that provides precision machine parts.

Following the Boeing plant visit, Secretary Geithner was joined by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire for a dockside tour the Port of Tacoma, one of the top 10 container ports in North America. In 2009, the Port of Tacoma handled about 1.5 million containers of cargo, contributing to more than $28.8 billion in trade. Last year, the Port of Tacoma handled more than $6 billion in international exports, with China/Hong Kong as the Port’s top trading partner by value of two-way trade. Activity at the port connects to 43,000 jobs — about one in six — in Pierce County and 113,000 jobs in Washington.

Following a tour of the Port of Tacoma, Gregoire and Geithner met with several community bankers to discuss the new federal Small Business Lending Fund, as well as ongoing concerns about access to capital.

“I have personally spoken with Secretary Geithner about the concerns of Washington’s community banks, and I want to thank him for taking the time today to meet with our local bankers,” Gregoire said. “Economic recovery won’t be real for our citizens until it’s happening for small and medium-sized businesses. And on Main Street they rely on credit from local banks. When local banks can’t lend, small businesses can’t stock their shelves, buy the equipment they need or hire more people.”

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Here is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s prepared statement during his visit to the Port of Tacoma:

It’s great to be here in Washington State. It is good to get out of Washington, DC, to see how things are going in our economy and to listen to people talk about what’s getting better and what is still hard.

Washington exports more per capita than any other state in the Union, which makes this a good place to talk about America’s economic future.

This morning, I spent some time at the 737 Boeing plant in Renton. The Governor and I just wrapped up a tour of the Port of Tacoma. Shortly we’ll be sitting down with some community bankers to figure out what more can be done to increase lending to Washington’s businesses. And tonight and tomorrow, I’ll be at Microsoft, with CEOs from some of the best companies in the world.

The American economy is getting stronger. We are coming out of the worst economic crisis in generations. The economy is creating jobs. In the first four months of this year, the American economy put more than half a million Americans back to work. That’s a more rapid pace than many predicted. And – this is very important – this expansion in jobs is being driven by the private sector, by private investment and by exports, in manufacturing and high tech.

Investment in technology is up by more than 14 percent in the past year. And business spending overall on capital goods – which adds in everything from trucks to machine tools – is up by about 7 percent in the past year. This is the start of a Main Street recovery. It is happening across the country.

This growth is driven, not by investment in housing or commercial property, as was the case in past recoveries, but by investments that will help lay the foundation for stronger future economic growth. And more of this growth in investment is being financed by the savings of Americans. We are saving more and borrowing less from the rest of the world.

And these early signs of strength are the result of the tough decisions the President made last year, decisions to move quickly to put out the financial fire, increase access to credit and capital and protect the financial security of American families; to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to families and businesses and in resources for state and local government, support for infrastructure projects; and to work with countries around the world to keep markets open and restore economic growth.

Now, this crisis caused a lot of damage. And we have a long way to go and lot of challenges we still need to confront. We need to boost investment in the nation’s infrastructure so that we can help the private sector take on projects that are long overdue and that put Americans to work. We need to encourage innovation by improving education and expanding investment in basic research and development. We need to support small businesses, with tax cuts to encourage hiring and investment and to increase access to capital and credit. And we need to increase exports.

The Senate is on the verge of enacting financial reform to provide better protection for consumers and investors and to limit risk taking that can damage the economy. We want to refocus our financial system on financing growth in innovative companies and away from feeding financial excess in real estate and predatory lending. And when the Senate approves these reforms, we hope it will turn to encouraging job creation by helping small businesses.

We’ve proposed a program of tax incentives and credit programs, including cutting capital gains taxes to zero on investments in small businesses and a new Small Business Lending Fund to invest capital into community and small banks with incentives to expand lending to their Main Street business customers. This is important because American companies are now starting to see strong increases in orders from businesses here and around the world. And to be able to expand production to meet those orders, they need to be able to access credit and capital.

I know you understand that growing exports is important to growing the economy.

Now if you talk to people in the freight and transport business, they will tell you an encouraging story. A few years ago, containers from Asia used to come into ports in Seattle and Tacoma and all along the West Coast fully packed with imports. And they were put on trains and trucks heading east across America. But many of those same containers would come back empty because America was simply importing dramatically more than we were exporting.

Well, now that’s changing. Now, more of those containers are going back full because now the world is buying more American goods. This is very good for America; it’s good for Washington State; it’s good for Tacoma. Exports are now up 20 percent over the past year.

Later this week, Secretary Clinton and I will be flying to China to expand opportunities for American companies. I want to take a few moments to describe our objectives for these talks and why China is important to our economic future.

American exports to China are growing much more rapidly than exports to the rest of the world. Compared to the first quarter of 2009, our exports to China went up by almost 50 percent while exports to the rest of the world went up by 20 percent. That’s happening because China is growing fast, faster than the rest of the world. But this is happening also because China is changing how it grows.

After decades of reliance on exports for economic growth, China is now shifting its development strategy to rely more on domestic consumption by the Chinese people. We call this rebalancing growth. As we in the United States save, invest, and export more, China and other countries are moving to expand consumption and imports. This transition in China will expand what is already an important market for American exports.

Now, this is encouraging, but we need to continue to work to make sure that American companies are competing on a level playing field.

The economic part of our agenda in Beijing will focus on reducing the challenges faced by American companies trying to export to China and to produce in China. China, like all countries, is working to encourage more innovation by Chinese companies.

And as part of a program they call “indigenous innovation,” China recently proposed a program where the government would compile a list of what qualifies as innovative products, and provide advantages to the companies that make them. Those benefits would include preferential treatment in government purchases. Products exported to China from the United States might not be eligible for those benefits. And even products produced by American firms that operate within China may not make the cut.

American companies are very concerned that this approach has the potential to discriminate against foreign-made products and could disadvantage American exporters and investors as they compete with Chinese firms. We share those concerns. The Chinese government has taken some steps to address these concerns, but we have some more work to do in this area.

Our challenge is to help make sure that China does more to protect intellectual property rights and reduces subsidies and other preferences to domestic companies. We want China to give American firms the same opportunities to compete in China that Chinese firms face in the United States. This is a simple principle of fairness.

Let me close with this thought. The American economy is in a much stronger position today that it was 15 months ago. We are a tremendously strong and resilient country. We are one of the most open and dynamic of all the major economies. We are leaders in innovation. We are the most productive workers in the world. We are excellent at making the goods and services that the world needs. And our great strength is the speed with which we adapt and change.

Washington’s job is to create the conditions for American business to excel. Our job is to help American businesses invest and grow. Our job is to help Americans get back to work. We are making progress, but we have to stick with it.

Thank you.