John Wolfe, the Northwest Seaport Alliance CEO, testified before the United States House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. At the recommendation of Congressman Dave Reichert, Wolfe discussed the economic risks that tariffs might pose to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
“We are deeply invested in U.S. trade policy discussions because they directly impact our core business, the success of our customers, and the lives of our local residents,” Wolfe said in his testimony. “Our marine cargo operations in our Seattle and Tacoma harbors support more than 48,000 jobs, while Sea-Tac’s air cargo operations help create over 5,200 jobs.”
In response to tariffs imposed by the U.S., China recently imposed its own tariffs on American goods ranging from soybeans and corn to cars and airplanes. This is particularly troubling to the Seattle-area economy because of the amount of goods traveling to and from China through the region’s ports.
“Our success as an airport and seaport gateway is inextricably linked to China,” Wolfe told Congress.
In 2017, over $27 billion in imports from China traveled through the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. During that same time period, nearly $5 billion in exports were shipped to China through the NWSA ports, plus an additional $2.2 billion in exports through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“While it is impossible to truly estimate the impact of these tariffs, roughly $8 billion in two-way trade through our airport and seaport will potentially face some level of increased tariff,” Wolfe explained. “The American Association of Port Authorities estimates that for every $1 billion in exports shipped through U.S. seaports 15,000 jobs are created, and the converse is likely true as well, which means that this $8 billion in trade likely represents 120,000 jobs.”
Wolfe acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns about China’s trade practices, but said that tariffs should only be used as a last resort.
“We all win when American businesses and entrepreneurs can sell more goods to more people throughout the world,” he said.
Watch the full House Ways and Means Committee hearing here.