Trade mission strengthens Washington state’s relationship with Mexico

From apples to airplanes, and much more, markets for Washington products reach far beyond our state’s borders. That’s why nearly 50 people from across government, businesses and industries have just wrapped a week-long trip to Guadalajara, Jalisco and Mexico City, Mexico to deepen relationships, increase trade and commerce and highlight Washington products.

“Washington is more dependent on international trade than any other U.S. state, and we have especially close economic and cultural ties with Mexico,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “This trade mission has been an excellent opportunity to strengthen this important relationship and continue to highlight our fantastic goods and products to Mexican leaders and consumers.”

Delegation members included: representatives from the state departments of Agriculture and Commerce, the governor’s office, and local city and county governments; business leaders from Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Microsoft, Amazon and others; education representatives from the University of Washington and Washington State University; as well as the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and the Washington State Dairy Farmers.

Gov. Jay Inslee joined nearly 50 delegates in Mexico City to promote everything from apples to airplanes. (Official Governor’s Office photo)

Inslee participated in the trade mission on Friday, May 19, where he kicked off the day with a meeting with the state delegation partners.

Inslee met privately with President Enrique Peña Nieto for more than 45 minutes, and they discussed trade, immigration and climate change.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, Gov. Inslee, Trudi Inslee, Ambassador Roberta Jacobsen (Photo courtesy of the Office of the President)

Inslee also met with other Mexican leaders including the mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Ángel Mancera; undersecretary for the environment, Rodolfo Lacy; secretary of foreign affairs, Luis Videgaray; and the minister of finance, Jose Antonio Meade.

Inslee and Lacy signed a memorandum of intent to coordinate on joint actions on climate change, expressing a shared commitment to working together on policies and ideas to improve air quality, ocean health, clean energy technology, and more.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Mexico’s undersecretary for the environment, Rodolfo Lacy, sign a memorandum of intent to coordinate on climate change. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Undersecretary for the Environment)

“Washington state and Mexico are both leaders on climate issues in our governments, businesses and universities,” Inslee said. “We all have an obligation and opportunity to do our part. I look forward to working with Mexico to build momentum for climate action at all levels of government.”

The full delegation arrived on May 15 in Guadalajara, where the focus was on Washington dairy products and the state’s apples and cherries. The delegation then traveled to Mexico City for meetings with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Latin America deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration. The delegation held a series of discussions on the North American Free Trade Agreement and met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the ministries of Economy and Energy.

Derek Sandison, director of the state Department of Agriculture (WSDA), led a delegation in Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco. There, Sandison and delegates from the Washington State Dairy Farmers met with the Department of Rural Development, the counterpart to WSDA. The group also visited Mexico’s second largest wholesale produce market, meeting several importers who ship large volumes of Washington produce for sale to local restaurants, markets and consumers.

“The meetings and visits this week have been remarkably useful in providing us with insight into the efforts undertaken by local importers and our state’s commodity groups to meet the desires and demands of consumers in Mexico,” Sandison said. “We also enjoy a sister-city relationship with Jalisco and look forward to exploring the opportunities that presents for exchanging ideas around agriculture production.”

Jalisco officials were particularly interested in Washington dairy operations and modern production techniques. Jalisco is Mexico’s most agriculturally productive state and, like Washington, derives a large percentage of its revenue from farming, ranching and food production.

Mexico is among Washington’s most important trading partners and is the number one market for dairy and apples. One of the primary purposes of this week’s visit has been to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to the trade relations it enjoys with Mexico and the many other important connections between the two.

Produce market in Jalisco, Mexico. (Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Agriculture)

For Washington’s agricultural sector, Mexico is a valuable and important trading partner:

  • Last year the state shipped $313 million in agricultural exports to Mexico, which is our number one market for Washington dairy products and number two for our world-famous apples. Our aerospace industry exported $484.5 million. In total, Washington typically exports about $2 billion in goods to Mexico annually.
  • Overall, Mexico was the seventh-largest export market for all Washington state food and agricultural products in 2016.
  • Mexico is a top market for several Washington products, including apples, hop extract, malt and tallow.
Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, in Jalisco, Mexico, on May 15, 2017 (Photo courtesy of the WSDA)

Washington’s ties with Mexico extend beyond trade, with Mexican culture woven deep into the state’s economy and culture. The state welcomed about 5,300 Mexican immigrants in 2014. More than 850,000 Washington residents are of Hispanic origin and there are nearly 25,000 Hispanic-owned firms in the state. These businesses contributed a total of $34 billion to our economy.

“This trade mission is about strengthening the cultural, educational and economic bonds between our regions,” Inslee said. “We are proud and appreciative of all of the international partnerships we have built over the last century and see many opportunities to continue these partnerships for decades to come.”