Industrial Pulp Mill in Port Townsend, Washington. The Olympic Mountains provide a backdrop to the historic pulp mill located along the waterfront of the maritime city of Port Townsend.
The paper industry has been hit particularly hard because of U.S. trade policies. (LoweStock/Adobe Stock)

SEATTLE -- Washingtonians across the state are feeling the pain from trade-related job loss.

An analysis from the Washington Fair Trade Coalition Education Fund (FTCEF) found job loss increased to more than 10,300 between 2017 and 2019, compared with about 7,800 three years before that. It's one of the hardest hit states in the country.

Jake Ackley, president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 422 and a former worker at Ponderay Newsprint, said after years of slowdowns, Resolute Forest Products couldn't keep orders up and its relationship with the other owners collapsed.

"They've kind of controlled everything and by pulling the tons, the other two partners that were left couldn't maintain, and Ponderay couldn't maintain, and they gave us about two days notice," Ackley recounted.

The paper industry has been hit especially hard by trade policies.

The FTCEF reviewed data from the federal government's Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides unemployment benefits to workers who have been deprived of their work because of outsourcing or displacement by imports.

Hilary Haden, a local organizer for the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, said the trade deal with China has protected big corporations that move their jobs overseas.

She added the 2017 tax law, which was a major priority for the Trump administration, has incentivized making goods outside the U.S. Under the law, the federal tax rate for goods made in the country is 21%, while income earned offshore is taxed at half that rate.

"We're seeing a lot of these policies come out of the Trump administration that are really explicitly targeted at facilitating this move of jobs to other countries," Haden contended.

But Haden argued the Northwest can bring back production. One route could be the push to "buy clean."

"Buying products that are less carbon intensive on the environment than other products and what we find is Washington and Oregon have some of the cleanest materials in the whole world because of the standards that our state legislatures have set for manufacturing in our states," Haden explained.

In the short term, the report also suggests moving production of COVID-19 protective equipment from overseas to the U.S.

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