Global Trade & Investment

Global Trade & Investment

Cluster Snapshot


Data Sources: Washington State Employment Security Department, 2015; Washington State Department of Revenue, 2015; Washington Military Alliance; Washington Aerospace Economic Impacts 2016 Update; US International Trade Administration, 2014. All data is Washington State.


Melinda GoforthVice President of Business Development
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Quick Stats

  • Seattle is equidistant between London and Tokyo
  • Washington State ranks first in the U.S. for exports per capita
  • Flights from SeaTac Airport reach Asia 1-2 hours faster than from Los Angeles or San Diego
  • Approximately 8.7% of Washington State’s private sector jobs are linked to export manufacturing
  • Seattle is a leading trade partner with Japan and China
  • With our natural deep-water ports, international air hub, and proximity to Asia and the Pacific Rim, the Seattle area has long been known as the Gateway to Asia. As a result, King County possesses some of the nation’s leading expertise in international trade and is one of the leading trade hubs on the West Coast.

Active ports

The Seattle-Tacoma-Everett port region is the third largest container complex in the United States, and serves not only the Pacific Northwest, but also the major cities of the Midwest, East Coast and Canada. We’re also a major air and overland hub, enabling rapid cargo shipments to literally anywhere in the world from one location. And with our active trucking and rail routes, overland shipments can make it to Southern California as quickly as overnight, and to the East Coast in as few as five days.

Close ties to trade partners

Commercial ties are cemented by strong civic, cultural and personal relationships. Greater Seattle is a popular destination for international tourists and students, has extensive sister-city relationships and is a center for research institutions, nonprofits and businesses that are conducting groundbreaking work in fields such as global health and clean technology.

Greater Seattle Region Global Trade & Investment Plan

The Greater Seattle Region Global Trade & Investment Plan outlines an ambitious multi-agency, intergovernmental, and public-private partnership process to implement strategies to bring the region to the forefront of international trade and investment.

The development of the Greater Seattle Region Global Trade & Investment Plan was led by the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle and the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, but developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington State Department of Commerce, Puget Sound Regional Council, Associate Development Organizations/Economic Development Councils from Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish Counties, as well as multiple local governments, industry trade associations, educational institutions, and other leaders of industry.

Recognizing the critical need for collaboration, this diverse group set out to unite around a single goal: for the Greater Seattle region to be the most globally competitive region in the United States. The plan focuses on attracting foreign direct investment and increasing the number and capacity of companies exporting across the Greater Seattle region over the next five years. Economic development partners will share resources, create common tracking systems, share information, and engage local and foreign companies to identify and leverage opportunities to increase economic opportunities across the region.

View/Download Infographic

View/Download Full Plan

  • Our region’s strategic location with regard to the Pacific Rim, our deep-water ports and vast experience in international trade make Seattle one of the leading trade hubs on the West Coast of North America.
  • Seattle is the closest seaport in the United States to both Asia and Alaska. Its location makes the city a prime gateway for shipping, cruise passengers, and tourists. In addition to Asia, many other countries are found among the list of Seattle’s top twenty trade partners.
  • A recent study by the Brookings Institution ranks the Seattle metropolitan region 6th on the total value of its exports and 10th on exports intensity among the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.
  • The value of the state’s exported merchandise totaled approximately $47.10 billion in 2012, 19% of which went to the state’s largest market, China.
  • Eighty-one percent of Washington’s exports come from the Seattle metro area (Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue).
  • About 70% of the port’s containerized cargo originates in or destined for regions or country outside the Pacific Northwest. Thus, while the state represents 2% of the nation’s population, its ports handle 7% of all U.S. exports and receive a 6% share of the nation’s imports.
  • Approximately 8.7% of Washington State’s private sector jobs are linked to export manufacturing.
  • Foreign investment accounts for another 3.7% of the state’s private-industry employment with foreign-controlled businesses employing over 91,000 

Foreign Trade Zone #5

In April 2012, the EDC partnered with NAIOP, the Port of Seattle, Dorsey and Whitney LLP, and the City of Kent to host a seminar on the Port of Seattle’s Foreign Trade Zone #5. The event included a number of Foreign Trade Zone experts who provided an overview of the FTZ program and explained how this Federal program can generate new economic activity in our region.

Below are the presentations given at the seminar.

Joe McWilliams, Managing Director Real Estate Division, Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle’s Foreign Trade Zone Overview 

Emily Lawson, Senior Attorney, Dorsey and Whitney
Foreign Trade Zone: Requirements and Compliance Consideration 

Bob Deane, International Trade Specialist, U.S. Department of Commerce
Doing Business Overseas: International Trade Tools for Business

Download the Port of Seattle’s FTZ brochure 

  • Port of Seattle – Foreign Trade Zone - The Port of Seattle’s Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) #5 can give companies a competitive edge and help manage cash flow by deferring, reducing and in some cases eliminating customs duties and reducing overall operating costs.
  • Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle -  The Trade Development Alliance’s purpose is to promote the trade interests of this region in domestic and international markets. The Trade Alliance is born out of a recognition that new local partnerships are necessary to retain our region’s future competitiveness in a rapidly changing global economy.
  • World Trade Center Seattle -  The World Trade Center Seattle is part of the World Trade Center Association, an international educational and business services network that provides members with access to over 356 World Trade Centers in 93 countries with over 1,200,000 member companies. It provides members with a venue for developing strong alliances and collaborations, sharing resources, and building global relationships.
  • US Export Assistance Center -  The Seattle U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) serves exporters in Western Washington State in international partnerships, international documentation, market entry strategy, and other export related guidance. The USEAC specializes in providing customized international business solutions.
  • Select USA -  SelectUSA seeks to highlight the many advantages the United States offers as a location for business and investment. From a vast domestic market, to a transparent legal system, to the most innovative companies in the world, America is the place for business

Other International Business Organizations


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