On Trade, Unsettling News for Seattle Area

By John Talton, May 23, 2013, Seattle Times

We know trade is important to Washington. It’s even more vital to metropolitan Seattle. According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevueranked No. 6 nationally in export value, at more than $41 billion. That compares with $53.9 billion in 2007, before the recession. The bad news is that the other top metros, led by New York, recouped their recession losses and showed higher 2011 figures.

I don’t have an immediate answer for our under-performance coming out of the downturn relative to other big export centers. And newer numbers, when they come out, might show a better trajectory of recovery. We know that Puget Sound ports have been losing market share relative to their West Coast peers, even as the Port of Tacoma and the Port of Seattle fight over existing container business. This erosion will grow with a wider Panama Canal enabling large container traffic to sail directly from Asia to the East Coast, where ports are pushing for federal money to deepen their harbors. There’s also competition from Vancouver and Prince Rupert, B.C.

One immediate lesson is that the Legislature shouldn’t be futzing around with transportation funding.

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