U.S. Congressman Adam Smith Explains Benefits of Planned Trans-Pacific Partnership
“The way you treat people always matters; and treating them well will be the greatest determinant of your success.”
– Adam Smith, US Congressman
Adam Smith is US Congressman for the 9th Congressional District in Washington State, USA. He has represented the district for 16 years. District boundaries were redrawn in 2012, so that the 9th District now includes Bellevue. Smith serves as Ranking Member of the US House Armed Services Committee. Formerly, he chaired the subcommittee on Air and Land Forces (ALF), and a committee that oversees the United States Special Operations Forces and counter-terrorism policy. Smith has also served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Given his current and previous committee assignments and extensive travel, Adam Smith has unique insights into today’s foremost national security issues and the uses of high technology, role of research and development to global communications and information technology security. In addition, Smith recognizes the importance of poverty reduction, access to education, sustainable global markets, diplomatic engagement, and other measures to enable our pursuit of stable international partners.
Q. Tell us about the U.S. House of Representatives.
A. Established in 1789, the United States House of Representatives is one of two Congressional chambers that makes and passes federal laws. Representatives introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments to legislation and serve on one of 25 congressional committees that consider legislation, oversee federal agencies, programs and activities. Congressional offices are also available to help people and businesses navigate federal agencies and learn about federal assistance and grant programs.
Q. What does your job mean to you personally?
A. I grew up in Sea-Tac, near the airport. So I represent people I have known my whole life, including those I went to school with, played little league with and who worked with my father. Now, I’m in a position to help them, and this opportunity means a great deal to me.
I’m also a believer in a representative government and in the notion that a system exists where you elect someone who is going to make an impact on your behalf. I am my constituents’ voice in Congress and I appreciate the opportunity to make sure they know they are being heard.
Q. What makes you successful in your job?
A. One thing is listening to the people I represent and being responsive to their questions and their requests. My congressional district includes some of the large employment centers in the region. It extends from Sea-Tac Airport, the manufacturing centers of South Seattle, the Port of Tacoma, and with the new 9th district, will also include Bellevue.
[Editor’s Note] In Bellevue and Seattle, high technology businesses include many types, from mobile communications and wireless technologies, to interactive media, animation, software as a service, cloud computing, energy systems, nano technology, photovoltaics, medical research and information systems, energy efficient trucks and more. It is also a center for professional services in law, finance, investments, engineering, architectural, building design.
So it’s very important that I stay informed on the issues that are most important to them. I also know that I don’t do this job alone. I must have the right people working for me. My office represents thousands of people, so my 20 staff people make sure we don’t miss a call, question or request. They are a great team.
Q. With respect to China and East Asia, what opportunities do you see for U.S. businesses there?
A. Washington State is geographically positioned to take full advantage of the potential economic gains from increased Asia-Pacific trade. With nearly 40 percent of the world’s population, the Asia-Pacific region made up 56 percent of global GDP in 2010 and the region hosts some of the fastest-growing markets in the world. This provides enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses and products.
Q. Are there any new policies that will help further these opportunities?
A. New ground is being broken for trade in Asia. In March 2012, the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (KORUS) took effect. This, allows almost 80 percent of U.S. exports to Korea of consumer and industrial products to become duty free and in 10 years that will be reduced to close to zero.
Given the improvements negotiated by the Obama Administration, the fact that the agreement included strong provisions on labor and environmental rights, and the mutually beneficial economic and strategic relationship between the U.S. and South Korea, I was a supporter and a leader in helping to work through outstanding issues and toward its eventual success.
Korea is the seventh largest U.S. trading partner and Washington State’s fourth largest export destination. Our workers and local industries stand to benefit considerably from the increased trade and trade-related jobs generated by KORUS.
More broadly, the United States is currently negotiating a regional trade agreement with several countries in the Asia-Pacific region – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and Mexico – known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
If done right, a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will serve as a model for future regional agreements by incorporating high labor and environmental standards, and helping small and medium-sized businesses participate, opening up new growing markets to American goods and services, fostering innovation, leveling the playing field for American products competing against state-owned enterprises, and strengthening our geopolitical relationships in this crucial region. It would also bring us closer to doubling American exports by the end of 2014, a goal set by President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
There is the potential for significant gains for our aerospace, technology, and agriculture-related industries. Of Washington State’s total exports, 69 percent went to markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
The details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership continue to take shape. As it evolves, I am working with the Administration and local stakeholders to advance a TPP agreement in a transparent process that helps Washington workers and businesses better compete in the global economy and that reflects our strong American values for labor and the environment.
Q. What advice do you have on how business owners can get help from their Congressional Representatives?
A. The most important thing to do is to reach out to us. Many people are unaware that we are a resource and that our offices are available to help. If you have a product that would be of use to the federal government, let us know and we can be very helpful in setting up the required meetings.
Many congressional offices also host community programs and forums featuring guest speakers that can provide insight on procurement and on Small Business Administration programs that offer counseling, mentoring or training.
Q. Tell us about your small business roundtables.
A. Each quarter, I host a small business roundtable with my constituents where I answer questions from local entrepreneurs and update them on how federal policies may impact them locally. These meetings give me great feedback on what’s working or may not be working for business owners, and how the federal government and Congress can address issues that are critical to small business owners’ success.
I strongly encourage business owners to schedule an appointment with their representative and members of their staff to ask questions, and to learn about the numerous federal, state and local programs that support small business growth and development that become available throughout the year.
Q. What insights do you draw from your personal life?
A. Over time, I’ve become a very philosophical person and I take a lot of insights from my personal life that I apply professionally.
I’ve learned that in any situation, no matter where you go, how you treat people matters. In business and politics, we sometimes get so busy and have so much going on that we sometimes forget that other people have a lot going on too. We must not forget to take the time to respect and be decent to everyone we meet. The way you treat people always matters; and treating them well will be the greatest determinant of your success.
Q. How can we contact your office?
A. Visit http://www.adamsmith.house.gov, where you can also sign up to receive my email updates.