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Central Washington University

Port of Oakland boss to CWU graduates: Don’t pull back from the world

Monday, June 11, 2018

Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris LytleA global trade executive urged college graduates to reject “extreme protectionism,” calling it damaging and futile. Speaking yesterday at Central Washington University’s Kent, Wash., commencement, Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle urged his audience to embrace globalization.

“Don’t disengage from the world – don’t be part of the illogical rush to draw the drapes and turn out the lights,” said Lytle, who is internationally recognized as a leading authority on ports, marine terminals, and container shipping, with more than 40 years of experience in the shipping industry. “We see too much of it today in Britain, Italy, France…and right here in the U.S.”

A 1979 graduate of CWU-Lynnwood, Lytle has run two of the nation’s largest ports: Oakland and Long Beach, Lytle had practical advice for graduates: “Don’t shy away from hard work and show up on time,” he said. But he saved his most forceful comments for a looming U.S.-China trade war. Both nations have introduced tariffs that threaten to disrupt international commerce. 

Lytle warned that the moves could undermine free trade. “And free trade has been the backbone of worldwide economic growth,” he said.

Oakland’s Port boss called tariffs the latest example of misguided nationalism. He said they run contrary to the advance of globalization and trade liberalization. 

“Globalization is the story of the 21st century,” Lytle said. “It has produced an era of unprecedented, worldwide economic growth.”

Lytle said a Chinese trade war would economically damage Washington as well as his home state of California. Both states produce farms goods targeted by Beijing’s retaliatory tariff regime, he pointed out. Those products, ranging from fruit to nuts, are exported through the ports of Oakland, Seattle, and Tacoma.

“What’s going to happen to those commodities with higher tariffs?” Lytle asked. “Prices will go up.  Demand will go down. And China’s booming market for American exports will wither.”

Lytle predicted that a trade war with China would result in lost jobs and lost income.  He also warned of lost opportunities for graduates.

Lytle urged graduates to explore opportunities worldwide as they embark on careers.  He asked them to help combat the spread of protectionist measures that could jeopardize their future.

“Free trade and the world economy are what you grew up with,” Lytle said. They’re what you know. “And they’re what’s right for a world struggling to come together…not pull apart.”

More than 300 graduates of CWU’s three Puget Sound-area University Centers heard Lytle’s address as they received degrees at the Sunday afternoon ceremony, held in the ShoWare Center. Overall, a total crowd, of an estimated 5,000, heard the insights of the longtime international maritime leader.

Tony Brito was the student speaker. He received his bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and Administrative Management, an online degree program, from CWU-Pierce County.

Media contacts: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,

Mike Zampa, communications director, Port of Oakland, 510-627-1565,

EDITOR’S NOTE: About the CWU University Centers
For more than 40 years, CWU has met the educational needs of time- and place-bound students with six University Centers statewide. Affiliated with community colleges, the University Centers offer upper division courses in selected degree areas. They are designed to serve the needs of students who desire a bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and may need accommodation for family and work obligations.

In addition to the centers named above, there are CWU-Yakima, at Yakima Valley College; CWU-Moses Lake, at Big Bend Community College; and CWU-Wenatchee, at Wenatchee Valley College. There are also two instructional centers, in Sammamish and on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

EDITOR’S NOTE: About the Port of Oakland
The Port of Oakland oversees the Oakland seaport, Oakland International Airport, and 20 miles of waterfront including Jack London Square. Together with its business partners, the Port supports more than 73,000 jobs in the region and nearly 827,000 jobs across the United States.

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