Northam lays out new trade initiative as Virginia loses business
By Sean Galvin
November 18, 2019

Governor plans dozens of initiatives to improve trade as state lags the rest of the country country in exports.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan to help state businesses hurt by President Trump’s trade war, setting a goal to expand Virginia’s international trade output by 50 percent in the next 15 years.

Northam released a nine-page press release outlining his proposal. It lays out 26 initiatives across three categories: Exports, the international supply chain and other elements that can help trade, like tourism. However, citing competitive concerns, Northam’s plan gives relatively few specifics.

“Maintaining Virginia’s position as the best state to do business and ensuring that all regions of the Commonwealth can participate in our economic growth requires that we boost our international trade,” Northam said in the press release.

Northam also said that it’s time for states to step in on behalf of their constituents. The governor has made trade a priority since taking office, regularly hosting foreign ambassadors to cultivate the Commonwealth’s trade relationships. On Friday he left for a six-day trip to the Middle East to develop trade relationships in the region.

Virginia’s trade needs the boost. Despite being named “America’s Top State for Business,” the state currently ranks 41st in exports per capita. In a sign of Virginia’s predicament, the Hampton Roads-based Port of Virginia has fallen behind other major ports on the Eastern Seaboard. The Port of Virginia currently ranks fourth behind ports in Savannah, Jacksonville, and New York/New Jersey. Of the five, Virginia was the only one to post negative annual growth since 2015.

Trump’s trade war with China has further hindered matters. At a financial update to lawmakers in August, Northam laid out how the President’s policy had negatively impacted farmers. Soybeans exports, which had historically been Virginia’s top export to China, dropped a whopping 83% from 2017 to 2018.

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