August Message from Board Chair Scott Parrish

Published Thursday, August 15, 2019

OBI members,

This week, our board member Lori Olund, president of Miles Fiberglass and Composites, joined Congressman Kurt Schrader for a meeting in Oregon City to discuss the importance of trade to Oregon jobs and, specifically, the proposed US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), now pending in the U.S. House.

I was thrilled that Lori could represent OBI at that meeting with Schrader because, in many respects, her company illustrates the story of trade and its importance to Oregon.

For many people, the word “trade” brings to mind big companies like Nike, Intel, and Columbia Sportswear. It’s true that large companies like those and others employ thousands of Oregonians largely because they operate successfully in global markets.

But the largest share of Oregon businesses engaged in trade are small and medium-sized companies like Miles Fiberglass, which employs 60 people in Oregon City and Portland, and my own company, A-dec, which has about 900 people at our manufacturing facilities in Newberg. In Lori’s case, she has identified business opportunities in Canada, so the U.S. trade relationship with our neighbors to the north is important to her. A-dec, sells dental equipment throughout the world, and we have long been proponents of policies that encourage robust and fair trade.

In Oregon, one in five jobs is related to trade, and 88% of Oregon exporters and small and medium-sized businesses, according to a recent study by our partners at the Pacific NW International Trade Association. So, when we see disputes like the tariff clash between the U.S. and China, it’s worrisome for Oregon businesses. The uncertainty these disputes have created impacts a wide variety of Oregon industries, across our entire state. Agriculture felt the pinch first, then manufacturing and finally retail. If a resolution is not reached soon, Oregon consumers will pay the price in the form of higher price tags on a variety of consumer goods, and Oregon jobs could suffer as businesses face reduced trade opportunities.

China is the biggest market for Oregon products, followed closely by Canada and Mexico. Trade with our two neighboring nations supported more than 154,000 Oregon jobs in 2017, including some 7,400 manufacturing jobs. In fact, one out of every five Oregon manufacturers sells to Canada and Mexico.

Under NAFTA, and the newly negotiated US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), there are zero tariffs on products sold from Oregon to Mexico and Canada. That’s significant since the value of Oregon’s exports to those two nations was $3.4 billion in 2018. Without a trade agreement with these two countries, Oregon manufacturers could face up to $249 million in tariffs.

OBI has long supported sound trade policies and reasonable trade agreements, and this year we have urged our congressional representatives to support the USMCA. Oregon is lucky that many members of our delegation recognize the importance of trade to our state’s economy. We appreciate that Rep. Schrader is a long-time strong supporter of trade, which he reiterated in his meeting with Lori, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici and Sen. Ron Wyden are playing key roles in negotiating the USMCA deal at Congress.

You can read that letter here.

There isn’t much we can do directly as individuals to address the trade issues with China, except continue telling the story about why trade means jobs in Oregon. But we do have an opportunity to help ensure there is robust and fair trade in North America by urging Congress to adopt the USMCA. Trade with Mexico and Canada is essential for the continued health of the Oregon economy. Please take a moment to contact your congressional representatives to urge passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Click here for how to reach them. It’s about Oregon jobs.