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

Seattle, Wash. – June 11, 2018: A global trade executive yesterday urged college graduates to reject “extreme protectionism,” calling it damaging and futile.  Speaking at Central Washington University’s Kent, Wash., commencement, Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle asked his audience to instead 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,” the longtime international maritime leader told an audience of 5,000.  “We see too much of it today in Britain, Italy, France…and right here in the U.S.”

As a Central Washington graduate, Class of ‘79, who has run two of the nation’s largest ports — Oakland and Long Beach — Mr. Lytle had practical advice for graduates: “Don’t shy away from hard work and show up on time.”  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.

Mr. 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,” Mr. Lytle said.  “It has produced an era of unprecedented, worldwide economic growth.”

Mr. Lytle said a Chinese trade war would economically damage Washington as well as his home state of California.  Both states produce farm 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?” Mr. Lytle asked.  “Prices will go up.  Demand will go down.  And China’s booming market for American exports will wither.”

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

Mr. 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,” Mr. Lytle said.  “They’re what you know, and they’re what’s right for a world struggling to come together…not pull apart.”

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. Connect with the Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport through Facebook, or with the Port on Twitter, YouTube, and at www.portofoakland.com.

Media Contacts

Mike Zampa

Communications Director

Tel. 510-627-1565

[email protected]


Marilyn Sandifur

Port Spokesperson

Tel. 510-627-1193

[email protected]



Media & Newsroom

Not sure who to contact or have a general question? Use our contact form to route your request