NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center. We’re honored to have two distinguished briefers with us today, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. This conversation is in advance of the third APEC senior officials and ministerial meetings. My name is Melissa Waheibi and I’ll be your moderator today. This briefing is on the record. A transcript will be posted on our website at fpc.state.gov. And as we begin, we ask that your Zoom profile matches your name and organization. Both the governor and the mayor will give opening remarks and we’ll have a period of Q&A, which I will moderate.
At this time, Governor, we begin with you.
GOVERNOR INSLEE: Yes, good morning to all who have joined us. Welcome to Washington State, the home of Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, but we’re also known to the youth of the Asian Pacific world as the home of Macklemore and Brandi Carlile, and our most recent winner of the American Idol contest, Iam Tongi, a graduate of at one of our fine high schools in the Seattle area.
Listen, we’re very excited about the APEC conference being hosted by Washington State and Seattle. And I’ll just mention fairly briefly, before we stand for questions, a couple reasons why I find this meeting so exciting from our state’s perspective.
First, it’s because of our massive foreign trade presence as a dynamic part of Washington State’s economy. We are one of probably the top five trade-profitable and dependent states in the United States. We had $45 billion of exports flow out of our ports in Washington State last year, and we’re leading in really high quality of both commodities and high-tech, from software to cloud computing to airplanes to biopharmaceuticals. Our agricultural products are the best; best apples in the world. And we argue with Idaho – they sell a few potatoes, but we think ours are the best.
So just from a quantitative perspective, the importance of trade to our state, where at least one out of five jobs are dependent on trade, is extremely important to the vitality of jobs in our economy of the State of Washington. And we pride ourselves because whatever the product is, you will find Washington state is on the higher quality and sophistication part of the spectrum, whether it’s apples or cloud computing or pharmaceuticals. Our products, frankly, are on the higher end of the quality as well, so this is very important for our state’s economy.
The second reason I’m particularly excited about this meeting – and today is a perfect day to talk about this issue – all of our communities that are involved in this meeting share something, and that is the biggest crisis that humans have ever faced, and that’s climate change – where Italy is today described as a giant pizza oven, where we have massive floods in Philadelphia, killed five people, while the large parts of the United States are breathing forest fires from Canada, and the states around the Pacific Rim or the countries are all suffering significantly. We have communities that are going to disappear in the rising waters of the Pacific Ocean if we do not find a way to defeat climate change.
This is the greatest, maybe, uniting force of these nations that we’ve ever had, and it is also a tremendous trade opportunity and job-creating opportunity. And I’m really looking forward to the ministers’ discussion about how we all maximize the economic opportunities inherent in decarbonizing our economies and building a clean energy economy.
In my state just in the last month – I’ll tell you why this is so exciting to us – I’ve gone to the opening of the very first aviation fuel manufacturing plant – Moses Lake, Washington – that uses carbon dioxide to make aviation fuel with no pollution. In that same community, we have two companies making world-class, earthshaking new silicon anode batteries to ship around the world to power our cars and our buses. Yesterday I went to Spokane, Washington where we had 11 electric buses. This is a huge economic opportunity as we build a new clean energy economy. And this ministers’ meeting, I think, gives us an opportunity to maximize the ability for multiple economies to prosper from this transition. Washington State has always done well when there’s a transition – a transition from analog to digital, a transition from propellers to jets – and now we think we’re going to do very well in the transition from carbon fossil-fuel-based economies to one based on clean energy.
So I think this is a perfect moment for this discussion of ministers. And given what’s going on around the world with climate change, we know that it couldn’t come a moment too soon. So I’m looking forward to the presence of these ministers. We hope they’re all going to sample the best clam chowder in the world, Irish clam chowder, as well. So I’ll make sure they have that opportunity.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
MR HARRELL: Thank you very much. Now that our great governor’s whetted everyone’s appetite, I’d love to share a few words as well. And I am always proud to follow our multi-term governor, who I believe is the longest serving current governor in the United States. It’s my pleasure.
A little context: Over the last 30 years our state and our great greater Seattle area, which are comprised of three counties – Snohomish, King, and Pierce County – these regions have deepened our global connectivity as a critical gateway to the Asia-Pacific economies. Going back in 1993, as an example, the United States hosted the first APEC leaders meeting on Blake Island right here in Puget Sound off the coast of Seattle. And we again, we were excited then, as we are now, about these – the potential activities and the discussions and the innovation that’ll come out of these meetings.
This summer we’re very excited to welcome back senior officials from the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation to advance sustainable economic policies in the Asia-Pacific region to strengthen our relationship with our global partners, and quite candidly, elevate the leadership innovation values of our city and our state.
Again, going back from 2012 to 2022, our greater Seattle’s total trade with APEC member nations reached just over $1 trillion, and it’s averaging more than $90 billion a year and accounting for 76 percent of all of Seattle’s trade. This particular meeting, we think, is an opportunity for regional and global thought leaders around the world and across this great country of ours and our city to come together in pursuit of our mutual interests. And as the governor said, there’s no greater place to host the spirit of innovation and collaboration than right here in Seattle.
Greater Seattle, again, is an incubator for innovation and a hub for international trade, an epicenter for economic opportunity, and a key leader in Washington State’s regional and global economy. I recently participated in the G7 discussions in Japan, and being a – having a ethnic background, coming from Japan – point of personal privilege – I’m particularly excited about many of the discussions that will take place.
As many of you may know, Seattle is the fastest – one of the fastest-growing big cities in the United States, with a strong and diverse economy built on growing industries. And as the governor mentioned, we are the ninth largest metro economy in the nation and home to 10 Fortune 500 companies that employ and attract top talent from around the world. The governor mentioned employers like Amazon and Microsoft, Boeing, the University of Washington, Costco, MultiCare, Starbucks, Alaska Air, T-Mobile – these are prime examples of the spirit of innovation and employment, employers around here attracting national and international talent.
Seattle’s not a one-industry town. Our economic strength is the direct result of growing and innovative key industry leaders in aerospace, in maritime, in manufacturing, in life science and health care and technology. We’re very proud – just yesterday, I had proposed an industrial land strategy to capture our spirit of international entrepreneurship, and it was passed by our local city council – looking forward on what we’re trying to do here.
Again, Seattle, we believe, is one of the most vibrant tech hubs in the United States, and we’re honored that we were chosen to host APEC Digital Month, a centerpiece of the agenda that will focus on digital innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. We believe this is an opportunity to bring public and private sector leaders together to expand digital access for not just APEC economies but underserved individuals and small businesses, a key priority for our economic development agenda right here in Seattle.
As a major transportation and logistics hub, greater Seattle is a key connector in delivering goods to the world throughout – and throughout the United States through our ports and airports. Again, greater Seattle is home to three deep water ports, and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of our northwest’s leading economic engines and Top 10 international airports that is closest to the United States gateway – and both to Europe and Asia – on the West Coast.
So over the next 20 years, we are adding more than 60 stations and 200 miles of new passenger light rail to support our growing region and the future of our economies. Again, our strong economic connection between our city and our region and APEC economies makes us all the more resilient, sustainable, and prosperous. Another point of reference is that APEC’s economies collectively represent 40 percent of the global population. Synergy between our country, especially our state and our city, is imperative to address global issues like, as the governor mentioned, climate change, food security, energy, gender equity, entrepreneurship, the digital access, and global health.
Again, we are proud of our employment and our employers here, what we’re doing with companies like the ones that the governor had mentioned, and we believe right here in Seattle our communities are enriched by those who have decided to make our region their chosen home. Ten percent of our population are individuals and families from APEC member economies, further deepening our connection with Asia-Pacific. So we’re very proud to host these great meetings and these great discussions in furtherance of our much better cause and higher cause than has been done in the past.
Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you both. It’s now time for the Q&A portion of this event. You can ask your question by raising your virtual hand, and I will call on you. Then engage your microphone, and we ask to put on your video as well, if possible. And you can also type your question into the chat feature and I can ask that on your behalf.
So at this time we’ll give it a moment or two to see if there’s any questions. Okay, we’ll begin with Pearl. Pearl, if possible, please open your mike and your camera and ask your question.
QUESTION: Could you read my question for me, please?
MODERATOR: Sorry. Yes, maybe. Okay, gentlemen, this is region-specific. I will ask it for Pearl, and if you have comment, great; if not, we can take that for her. So this is from Pearl Matibe from Nigeria: “Governor Inslee, what one top most lesson can cities around the world, as far away as Abuja and Lagos and Nigeri or Johannesburg or Cape Town as examples, can learn from your experience? One, economic partnership with the Indo-Pacific?” And the second question is: “What does the Indo-Pacific mean to you and your state?”
So what can cities around the world learn about economic partnership and growth and what does the Indo-Pacific mean to you and your state?
GOVERNOR INSLEE: Thank you, Pearl. I really appreciate that question. I started my comments talking about our decarbonization, building a clean-energy economy. And I would say that the lesson from my state is that we have the opportunity to grow economically if we dedicate ourselves to building clean-energy industries around the world. Our state has been one of the most effective economic engines, certainly in the United States and the Western Hemisphere, in part because we have focused on – always focused on – innovation, always looking over the horizon to the next technology.
But particularly when it comes to energy, we know – everybody on this call – that we can’t be burning fossil fuels in the decades to come, because it will make large parts of your continent in Africa uninhabitable. I just read the other day that parts of the northern Horn are literally becoming uninhabitable, just because of temperature. So we all know we have to make this transition.
I think the lesson from our state is that in doing so we can grow jobs by the thousands and create wealth and health for our citizens. I mentioned multiple technologies were doing that – in battery manufacturing, in the development of fuel cells. In fact, it’s interesting. The largest truck in the world is now in South Africa in a mine, and it’s powered by an engine that burns hydrogen with no pollution. And that engine is a fuel cell and it was built in south Seattle, Mayor Harrell’s city, at a company called First Mode.
And that’s the kind of transition that is going to save your continent and ours – because our grandchildren are going to suffer the same fate. But most importantly, it can grow economically at the same time. So if I was going to list one lesson from my state is this is a tremendous economic growth strategy.
As far as the Indo-Pacific, the Indo-Pacific means my state; it means home. And I’ll tell you why. We have so many people form the region who are our constituents. The fellow I just mentioned, who won the American Idol contest, Iam Tongi – he’s the first Pacific Islander to win that contest. And we have so many folks from Samoa and Tonga, Vietnam, India. We just swore in – I went July 4th, our independence – I get to swear in new Americans, and we had 503 new Americans, dozens from India, many people from the Pacific Rim. So it kind of means my neighborhood. I grew up in White Center, Washington. It was a very diverse neighborhood from people all around the world. So what it means to me is they’re my neighbors, they’re my constituents, and they’re our trading partners.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Governor. In the chat function, she did thank you in advance for that answer.
Next question is to Ozzy Yin, Central News Agency, Taiwan. Ozzy, you can engage your microphone, ask your question, and your camera if possible.
QUESTION: Hi. My question is directed toward the Governor Inslee. Could you talk more specifically about the economic ties between Washington State and Taiwan and your hope and expectation for this partnership going forward? Thank you.
GOVERNOR INSLEE: Well, it’s enormous. I don’t have the number at hand – I may try to provide it to you – as far as what the dollar numbers. But obviously they’re huge, because we’re in a high-tech economy. And any – in some sense, any nation or state that has a hightech economy is going to have – or should have – a robust trade relationship with Taiwan, because it’s such an important part of the supply chain for our whole high-tech economy.
As far as – I know there’ll be discussions about this with Taiwan because of their chip-based manufacturing base, and how we’re going to integrate and move forward. I do think that our senators from my state were very involved in the bill that will try to produce more chips in our country, for a variety of reasons. And I know there’ll be discussions about that to make sure that we continue to grow on both sides of the Pacific. So I will look forward to productive discussions about that.
Oh, and let me also say I know Taiwan’s going to help us in this clean energy revolution. I know they will, because anyone who has an innovative economy like Taiwan is going to have tremendous opportunities developing clean energy systems. And I’m very confident that Taiwan will be able to do that and become a supplier, as we are, in multiple clean energy technology. We have to do that or the shores of Taiwan are going to have a lot higher seas and a lot hotter temperatures and a lot more rainfall.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We have a question. Do you find that the trends of economic trade between Pacific regions is initiated from your companies in Washington or are you sought after by Asian companies, recognizing it could be both? That’s for either briefer.
GOVERNOR INSLEE: Bruce, I’ve dominated this. You want to take that? I have some thoughts if you —
MR HARRELL: Sure, I’ll give it a shot, and could use a backdrop. I think it’s a mutual relationship. I’ve personally traveled in the last two months to Korea and Japan and even in Norway and Iceland. And I find that the relationships are, indeed, mutual, that they are doing some very creative things in the world of hydrogen, in fuel cell development, in terms of environmental sustainability, and they seek out very aggressively what we’re trying to do.
And with this year’s theme of inclusivity and interconnectedness and innovation as the APEC’s theme, I find that these mutual relations – I can’t say – my impression – and I don’t have data to back it up – my impression is these are mutually beneficial relationships and that the energy from both sides are of mutual energy in terms of who’s interested in what. And I think that’s why this particular summit is critical. I can’t say it’s one-sided and one is the aggressor, so to speak, in terms of how these great relationships come about.
GOVERNOR INSLEE: I’d just add something. I agree with Bruce. It’s equal both ways, going east and going west. I will say that it’s – they’re productive. It’s amazing how personal interactions still play a role in trade. And we have certainly tried to use some of our time selling some Washington products. I’ve been in Japan, selling French fries and Washington potatoes. I’ve been in China selling candy, Almond Roca candy, which is delicious, by the way.
And I remember being in Beijing in a trade opening of a shopping center, and I said – and Brown & Haley makes Almond Roca in Tacoma, Washington. And we did the opening. They had a new package they were celebrating in China. They have pink, which is a very popular color in China. And when I said, “Okay. Now please come get your sample of Almond Roca.” I had a big tray, and I was pinned against the wall for five minutes as a hundred folks from Beijing enjoyed our Almond Roca. It’s fun work to do on occasion.
But I have equal joy talking to investors who come, who want to invest in manufacturing plants in our state. I most recently have had discussions with some folks in Korea, where I will be here next month on our clean energy roundtable in South Korea. Both talking to people here who want to invest in our state, and going elsewhere is both great – a great duty.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ll leave this open for any additional questions. Give it a moment. If not, final comments from both briefers. The question is: Are there any specific elements of APEC you’re most looking forward to hosting here in Seattle?
MR HARRELL: Well, I’ll take a first shot at that. One thing in Seattle I think I should have mentioned in my remarks is we do take pride in just being innovative, but innovative in and of itself really doesn’t stand for much, unless, I think, it’s followed closely by inclusivity; that what we’re trying to do here, I think, in our state, in our region, are making sure that even those that are not enjoying the great benefits of a great economy, and the great innovative steps that our country and our state has taken, that we care about those that are slipping through the cracks, and looking at how we can help them.
That’s why we work in small businesses. Many of these small businesses hire people from their own communities. And to have this kind of idea of inclusivity at an APEC’s level, that – those kinds of discussions excite me, because I realize that no matter how big the world becomes and the economies become, that we still think about those that are slipping through the cracks.
So that type of conversation through thought leaders throughout the world excites me, and I think we – our sort of secret sauce here in this state and in this region, that we sort of get that here. And so that particular aspect of this summit excites me.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Governor?
GOVERNOR INSLEE: What I would say is that the spirit of the COP meetings, where the world is coming together to try to defeat climate change and save all of us from the ravages of this beast, that that spirit will be equally alive in this ministerial meeting. And the reason that’s so pivotal is that this is actually where the rubber meets the road, which is the economic part of this issue, to decarbonize our mutual economies.
That happens with these ministers – not necessarily the environmental ministers who were in Egypt last year, who will be in Abu Dhabi. To some degree, the only way this is going to get solved is through the economic leaders of these multiple communities. And I’m looking forward to them embracing that mission and succeeding in it. I just got to meet – not meet, but I got to spend some time with my sixth grandchild yesterday, and his future is dependent on the success of this meeting. So I’m looking forward to it.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you so much. This concludes our briefing for today. Thank you, Governor Inslee and Mayor Harrell, for being here. And thank you to all the journalists who participated.
Again, the transcript will be on our website later at fpc.state.gov. Have a good afternoon.
*Non-federal government guests invited to address FPC member journalists offer their views in a personal or organizational capacity and do not necessarily represent the official policy views of the U.S. federal government.*