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Ducey: Trans-Pacific Partnership makes Arizona more competitive

PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday said he supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because the trade policy will make Arizona more competitive in the business world.

Officials will now pitch the policy, which trade negotiators agreed upon on Monday, to respective governments involved in the deal.

The proposal eliminates some trade barriers between countries over time and boosts legal protections for copyright and pharmaceutical industries, among other things. It also contains a framework for nations involved to create binding agreements and to settle disputes.

Ducey said Arizona remains one of the largest hubs of trade in North America, although officials and industry leaders need to do more to decrease regulations.

Executive Director Kurt Volker of the McCain Institute asked Ducey about the agreement during an international “state of the state” address at the Arizona Biltmore.

“I think it (the trade agreement) means very positive things for Arizona,” Ducey said. “It means positive things for any state that is going to embrace free-market economics and international trade.”

A few pages of the document have been leaked on Wikileaks, but officials have not released most of the trade agreement’s content to the public. Congress won’t vote on the agreement until 2016 at the earliest.

Volker asked Ducey about potential critics of the deal, particularly because low-wage and poorly regulated countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam are involved.

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“I think you’re always going to have critics on any big idea,” Ducey said. “We need to answer some of these questions by asking, ‘What’s in our nation’s best economic interest?’”

Arizona’s international competitiveness remains critical to the success of the state, Ducey said. Last year, Arizona set a record high of $21.2 billion in exports.

Ducey said international trade in the U.S. fell 5.2 percent in the last six months, but Arizona’s international trade has increased by 12.5 percent during the same period. In 2014, Arizona imported about $1.5 billion worth of goods and services from Canada, a 92 percent increase from 2009.

“More than 22,000 jobs have been generated by Canadian-owned firms that have located here,” he said. “Next on my priority list would be Canada.”

Volker said he liked that Ducey had numbers readily available during his speech and interview.

“It’s typical of about any business person that they know the numbers,” Volker said. “You talk about some of the increase in exports, and these are all things that are very hard data and very important to know when you try and shape outcomes.”

Volker said he also supports the trade agreement, and it should help Arizona overall.

“I’ve always been a very strong believer in free and open trade,” Volker said. “Trade agreements that remove barriers, remove tariffs, remove regulatory barriers that enable our companies to get in there and compete is always good for the U.S.”

However, Volker said history will judge if Ducey’s approach is the right one.

“If any state in the union were already Switzerland, then you probably wouldn’t need to have a government,” he said. “We’ll see in a few years from now how the governor did. I think the spirit that he showed today is one where he’s willing to roll up his sleeves and try.”

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Curtis Spicer/Cronkite News

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks to the crowd gathered for “Steering Arizona’s Future in International Waters,” moderated by Kurt Volker, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and executive director of the McCain Institute.

2014 Global imports (rounded)

  • California; $403 billion
  • Texas; $302 billion
  • Georgia; $84 billion
  • Washington; $52 billion
  • Arizona; $20 billion
  • Colorado; $14 billion
  • Oregon; $14 billion

2014 Global exports (rounded)

  • Texas; $288 billion
  • California; $174 billion
  • Washington; $91 billion
  • Georgia; $39 billion
  • Arizona; $21 billion
  • Oregon; $21 billion
  • Utah; $12 billion

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration