Washington trade delegation to China includes county reps

They are there to promote state aerospace companies and other manufacturers.

Paine Field Airport Director Arif Ghouse. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Paine Field Airport Director Arif Ghouse. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

EVERETT — Snohomish County business and airport officials are visiting China this week to promote the region’s aerospace and manufacturing industries and take part in an international trade gathering.

Representatives of Economic Alliance Snohomish County and Paine Field have joined others from the state Department of Commerce, Washington State China Relations Council, Greater Seattle Partners and the governor’s office for the week-long trade mission.

They’re attending the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai. More than 150,000 participants from 56 countries are expected.

Washington exports more products and services to China than any other U.S. state.

In 2018, the state exported more than $14 billion worth of products and services to China, including $10 billion from the aerospace sector, according to the state Commerce Department.

Washington’s aerospace sector employs an estimated 86,000 workers.

Nearly one in three jobs in Washington is tied to international trade.

But retaliatory tariffs in the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China coincide with a decline in the value of state exports by $413 million, or 17%, through August.

“A healthy trade relationship between our two countries benefits all of us,” said Patrick Pierce, president and CEO of Economic Alliance, who is among those on the trip.

Last year, $4 billion of Snohomish County-made goods were purchased by China, making it the county’s top export market, Pierce said.

China, in turn, serves as a key supplier for many of the county’s medical device and aerospace manufacturers, among others, Pierce said.

Paine Field, the Snohomish County-owned airport, “is responsible for over $20 billion in economic activity, a significant portion of which is trade with China,” said Paine Field airport director Arif Ghouse, who is representing the county.

“By reaching out to our most important trade partners, including China, we can build on our history of economic success,” Ghouse said.

The county is home to Boeing’s main wide-body aircraft assembly plant and an estimated 40,000 aerospace jobs.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg said last month that production of the 787 Dreamliner would be cut from 14 to 12 planes a month beginning next year due, in part, to the “lack of orders from China.”

“The US-China trade situation has presented challenges for our wide-body production plants. In particular, for the 787 program,” Muilenberg said during a conference call to discuss the company’s third-quarter earnings report.

Production of the 787 is split between Everett’s assembly plant and Boeing’s South Carolina assembly plant.

Brian P. McGowan, CEO of Greater Seattle Partners, described the region’s economic connection to China as nothing short of critical.

Greater Seattle Partners is a regional nonprofit that aims to attract business, trade and investment to the Puget Sound region. It promotes the region as a whole while capitalizing on Seattle’s international name recognition.

“More than two dozen Chinese businesses already have a presence in our region,” McGowan said. “China is the second-fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the U.S. Much of that is focused in the Puget Sound area.”

During this week’s visit, some state delegates will split off to participate in a renewable energy conference in the city of Wuxi. That summit focuses on green buildings, electric vehicles and energy storage technology.

Clean energy represents an economic opportunity for Washington businesses, commerce officials say.

During a 2013 trade mission to China, Gov. Jay Inslee signed several research and technology collaboration agreements related to clean tech.

In 2015, at a Governor’s Forum in Seattle, six U.S. states and six Chinese provinces signed an agreement to collaborate on energy and carbon reduction strategies.

“Washington has a rich history of cultural and economic ties with China, dating back to the 1820s, when ships from Columbia River ports first sailed to Guangzhou,” said Lisa Brown, the Commerce Department’s director.

“While there continues to be dialogue on a longer-term solution to our trade relationship with China at the national level, we are committed to continue building on important relationships forged over the years,” Brown said.

Those relationships, she said, have resulted in “fruitful collaborations in research, education, arts, tourism and all of our key industry sectors.”

The Commerce Department will also showcase opportunities to do business with Washington companies.

The state’s key industry sectors will be featured under the department’s “Choose Washington” banner.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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