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News / Opinion / Columns
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Camden: Inslee trip aims to boost trade, ‘sisterly’ relationships

By Jim Camden
Published: August 11, 2015, 5:00pm

Gov. Jay Inslee leaves late this month on a trade mission to Japan and South Korea, hawking Washington’s agricultural products, making nice with aerospace companies and paying family visits, of sorts, on behalf of the state.

Before you start complaining about the waste of taxpayer dollars for the governor to gallivant around the globe, it would be good to note taxpayers don’t pay his freight on these economic excursions. That’s covered by a special nonprofit, the Host Fund of Washington, set up by the Trade Development Alliance in Seattle, from donations.

Costs for state staff who accompany the governor, including the directors of the Commerce and Agriculture departments, come out of their respective department budgets, so it’s not a complete freebie for taxpayers.

Governors often appreciate the chance to get out of Olympia and confer, converse and otherwise hobnob with brother wizards. But the trade missions are primarily about selling products and business from the state most dependent on foreign trade. Inslee will reciprocate for a visit by officials from the state’s newest aerospace company, Mitsubishi, which opened an engineering office in Seattle earlier this year.

He’ll also visit fellow governors in two of Washington’s sister states, Hyogo prefecture in Japan and Jeollabuk-do province in South Korea.

Turns out states, like many U.S. cities including Spokane, adopt familial relations with states, provinces or prefectures around the globe. And like any family relationship, if you’re in the neighborhood only once in a blue moon, you want to drop by to say hi.

Washington has six such sisterly relationships, with China, the Philippines, Mexico and India as well as the two Inslee will visit. The state started acquiring far-off sisters in the early 1960s.

(Vancouver’s sister city relationship with Joyo, Japan, was adopted in October 1995. Joyo is in Kyoto prefecture half way between the bigger cities of Kyoto and Nara.)

At the time, the United States and Japan were working to get past the feelings from “the late unpleasantness,” which some people used to describe a long list of events stretching from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In that context, Inslee’s trip is rather interesting, considering Mitsubishi is the company that brought us the Zero fighter plane and Pearl Harbor, and Washington is the state that brought us Hanford and the Nagasaki bomb. Those are things that family members might not want to dwell on.

Washington has another special relation with the Japanese. Mount Rainier and Mount Fuji are considered to be sister mountains.

Of primary concern

If your appetite was whetted by last week’s Republican presidential forums — let’s face it, they are not debates in any sense of the word — you might be interested that state officials meet Tuesday and determined not to change when Washington’s primary will be held.

Under state law, it’s in late May. But that’s usually too late to have any influence on the selection process, which gets earlier and more heavily loaded to those early months with each presidential election cycle. Secretary of State Kim Wyman asked the Legislature to move it to March 8, which would be one week after Super Tuesday. It didn’t, but legislators did come up with the money to have a primary. Under state law, the nine-member Presidential Primary Committee can move the date if Wyman, who is a member, could have persuaded at least five other members.

Problem is, half the remaining members are Democrats, and the state Democratic Party prefers to select its presidential delegates through the caucus process. State Republicans will split their selections between caucuses and a primary. Having a primary in May would definitely be a waste of money, so the question becomes, since it will not be moved up to March, is it better to scrap it entirely?