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Rebuilding California's Trade Policy Infrastructure

May 10, 2019

California is home to one of the largest and most vibrant economies in the world, with a gross domestic product in excess of $2.8 trillion, and is one of the top exporters in the United States. In 2018, the state exported $178 billion worth of merchandise, was a major destination for foreign investment in the US, and was a leader in services trade in industries like software, entertainment, and education. California benefits from its ties to international trade in numerous ways. This trade and investment, the jobs they support, and the ways they improve California’s competitiveness in the global economy are deeply important to California’s economic well-being. However, over the past 15 years, California’s state government has not shown a level of commitment to trade commensurate with its impact on the state economy. California can and should be doing more to defend its position as a top exporter.

There is no “one size fits all” trade and investment strategy California can utilize. California’s strategy needs to reconcile the state’s unique challenges and opportunities, and policymakers will need to make hard decisions about what they can and cannot accomplish. This report not only examines key challenges facing the state, but also utilizes past research, stakeholder engagement, and current best practices from other states to offer concrete recommendations that can be acted on immediately by the incoming administration. This is an evolving policy framework intended to keep California moving forward. Our recommendations are designed to make this possible, but dialogue is needed to determine concrete steps for implementation.