Each week, Congressman Adam Smith will answer your questions in Tacoma Weekly.  To submit questions and read past responses, visit Tacoma Weekly online.  Here is this month's question submitted by a reader for that ongoing effort:

QUESTION: With the rise of Asian countries and the fall of European countries in geopolitical and economic power, it would seem that the South Sound is at the center of the shift with major trading operations with China on one hand and JBLM on the other if hostilities flare up somewhere in Asia, be it North Korea or wherever. How do you see this shift playing out locally?

ADAM SMITH: The dynamic and rapidly growing Asian markets will undoubtedly impact the South Sound region and our economy. We have strong historical security and economic relationships that will only continue to grow in importance as Asia's economic influence rises.

In 2010, of the total $53 billion in Washington State's exports, $36.8 billion (69 percent) went to markets in the Asia-Pacific. Given the quality of products produced by Washington workers, I anticipate that number to increase significantly over the coming years. Boeing, one of the Puget Sound's largest employers anticipates that approximately half of the world's air traffic growth will be driven by travel to, from, or within the Asia Pacific region over the next 20 years as a result of the development of Asian economies.

This growth is sure to significantly increase sales of commercial aircraft and have positive impact for jobs in our state. With more than 70 percent of U.S. agricultural exports shipped to the Asia-Pacific, the region has also become the largest market in the world for U.S. agricultural goods. If Washington State agriculture can take advantage of the growth and opening of Asian markets, this will be good news for our dairy, potato, small fruit and other farmers. The recent passage of a U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement also created more favorable conditions for Washington exports to Korea and, if done right, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to open more doors.

Our community's economic ties with Asia are strong, however, it is vitally important that we also work to maintain and develop comprehensive and strategic relationships around the region to prevent hostilities. Every Asian country is different and each has a complex set of interlocking but shifting relationships with us and each other. For example, stronger ties with South Korea will aid cooperation to stabilize the Korean peninsula and demonstrate our commitment to engagement in the region.

Reinforcing our military cooperation and dialogue with the countries of South East Asia have and will continue to calm tensions surrounding the South China Sea. At the same time, strategic engagement also means supporting positive dialogue and a better diplomatic relationship with China. As China continues to gain economic influence, encouraging the country to be a responsible global actor will contribute greatly to global and regional stability.

Our projected shifts and presence in the Asian region reflects the importance of the Pacific Rim and provides other nations the confidence that we will be a significant player in helping maintain stability in the region. With the right engagement, hostilities can be prevented and the South Sound region can benefit greatly from Asia's rise.

Have a question for Smith? Send it to stevedunkel@tacomaweekly.com and I'll get it answered.