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Washington Businesses, Politicians To Discuss Controversial Pacific Trade Deal

Henry Alva
Apples are among Washington state's exports

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that was hammered out behind closed doors is now public, and Washington businesses and politicians will be giving their initial thoughts on it at a conference sponsored by the Washington Council on International Trade.

President Barack Obama says the agreement between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries is a good deal that will get rid of 18,000 tariffs on American goods—everything from cars to yogurt.

He says in a post on the website Medium that the agreement includes “the strongest labor standards in history” and the toughest environmental commitments in history.

But Gillian Locascio, director of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, says she is worried about how those requirements will be enforced.

"We really have an issue here with not putting any teeth behind these mechanisms, a lot of great language and not any structures that allow us to make sure that any standards are being met," Locascio said. 

Washington state depends a lot on trade, exporting everything from airplanes to cherries, and business groups are pushing for Congress to pass the Pacific trade deal. Executives from Microsoft and Boeing will be speaking about the agreement at the conference, along with representatives from the Northwest Horticultural Council and the Northwest Seaport Alliance.

For the deal to pass in Congress, the president needs to win over some skeptical Democrats.

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she opposes it.

Members of the Washington state delegation are weighing how to vote, including Democratic Representative Derek Kilmer, whose district includes the Olympic Peninsula.

"There’s a very strong appetite to see whether or not this has the high standards around protecting workers, protecting the environment, protecting intellectual property," Kilmer said. "Everyone also wants to make sure this is an agreement that helps us export American products, not export American jobs.”

Kilmer will be speaking about the trade deal on a panel at the conference, along with Representatives Rick Larsen, Denny Heck and Adam Smith.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.