Secretary of State John Kerry made a visit to Renton on Tuesday and defended the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty as good for Washington and the country.
With the Boeing 737 production facility as a backdrop, Kerry delivered a 50-minute defense of President Obama’s Pacific Rim trade package that has come under fire from opponents both outside and within the President’s own party.
“The reasons why it is important are straight-forward and sensible,” Kerry said, urging Congress to put the legislation on the “fast track.”
“We’ve got to be engaged. We’ve got to lead,” he said. “Globalization has no reverse gear.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that, according to Kerry, constitute 40 percent of the world’s economy.
Kerry called the TPP “historical” and a “21st Century Agreement,” concluding “This is not your grandparent’s trade agreement.”
Kerry said up until recently there had been a consensus from both parties that trade was a good thing, but recently, that consensus has become “frayed” because “not enough of the benefits are being passed on,” but urged opponents – especially those on the left – not to discount trade agreements in general.
“The solution,” he said, ” lies not in shifting the blame to trade itself but transforming the system to work for everybody.”
Kerry said by being part of the agreement, the United States can play a critical role to determine “the highest stands and rules for trade” and called arguments it “deeply flawed.”
Kerry forcefully pushed back against opponents who say the TPP will be used to dismantle US standards, saying no nation’s sovereign rights will be violated and said despite what the opposition says, the agreement has been available to members of Congress for “for years” and would be made public for 60 days before the president signs it.
However, Kerry’s main message was simply that the United States must remain involved in world trade. He also spoke of tariffs in other nations that add to the costs of American products, like wine or apples from Washington state.
The Secretary of State was introduced by Patrick Shanahan, senior vice president of Airplane Programs for Boeing Commercial Division, who reminded the crowd that the 737, assembled in Renton, is the most widely used jet in the world, with one taking off or landing somewhere every 1.9 seconds. A total of more than 8,500 737 planes have been assembled in Renton with another 4,200 on order.
More than 12,000 people work at the Renton facility, turning out a completed 737 every 12 hours.
Shanahan also said the Secretary of State’s 757 was built here in Renton but joked “I think we should get you a new one.”
Kerry, a pilot since college, also joked about his plane, asking “Don’t you think I ought to be able to trade up?”
“I promise,” he said, “I’ll show it off all over the world.”
Mayor Denis Law was on hand for the visit, calling it a “pretty special moment for Renton” that Kerry chose the city to make his address on trade. The mayor also said that the Secretary’s visit, combined with a visit to Renton Technical College by the Vice President in October spoke to the up-and coming nature of the city and its economy.
“It’s really a good time for our city,” Law said.