CISB Student’s Perspective on the Washington Council of International Trade Summit

By Talia Haller, CISB Spanish Track

With so much volatility in the international trade arena, it can be confusing as a student to keep up and understand what’s going on. However, the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program (CISB) constantly provides opportunities for students like myself to get first-hand access to professionals and industry experts by sending out invites to high-level local events.

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) Trade Summit downtown at Amazon’s headquarters. The Summit featured a number of different representatives from both the private and public sector, such as Darigold CEO Stan Ryan, Microsoft’s Director of International Trade Policy Matthew Reisman, and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell.

It was quite the eye-opening experience:

“Want to bet on how many people rewrote their speeches last minute,” said an older businessman before I had even sat down next to him. Though I didn’t know the man, I knew exactly what he was talking about: the current Administration has created dramatic uncertainty around trade policy, especially within the last few weeks. Changes include the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement, the threat of the NAFTA withdrawal, the more recent steel and aluminum tariffs, and now the $60B in tariffs aimed directly at China announced last Thursday.

The hum of uncertainty was palpable in the room. Walking around and floating in on random conversations, I kept hearing, “This should be interesting… Well with all the changes lately… I wonder what will happen next…. How will China respond?” As a student, it was interesting to see professionals and industry experts in such a place of uncertainty and, in many ways, curiosity about the future.

Yet as the Summit progressed, it became clear that though this was a time of uncertainty, many of the speakers viewed it as a time of opportunity as well. For example, U.S. Representative Suzan Delbene spoke up in favor of finding ways to combine conventional trade policy methods with new digital trading technology. In another instance, U.S. Representative Rick Larsen noted how we’ve moved from a trade policy to a tariff policy and suggested that efforts instead need to focus on looking at the supply chain today because everything is connected. A tariff on one country no longer affects solely that country and the integrated web of globalized trading needs to be understood when crafting trade policy. Additionally, multiple Representatives spoke to the need to create a global effort in addressing China. As U.S. House Representative Dave Reichert stated, “the more parties we have involved, the more we can influence China’s behavior.”

After gaining insight at the Trade Summit, I look forward to see what happens next in the International Trade Arena. What opportunities lie ahead – and how will other countries react?