Trade support lacking, Schaefer says Governor cites companies, governments and the public.

June 20, 1991|By Journal of Commerce

SINGAPORE -- Efforts to promote international trade at the state level have been frustrated by poor state and Commerce Department support and a frustrating domestic mind-set on the part of many U.S. companies, said Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"One of the most difficult jobs for me is to sell international trade to the average American citizen, particularly the Maryland citizen, particularly in the counties and rural areas," said Schaefer, as he and 14 other officials wrapped up a 12-day trade mission to Japan and Singapore this week.

"My efforts to convince the Greater Baltimore Committee that world trade is important -- I might as well hit my head against the wall," he said.

While in Japan, the governor received a pledge from Terumo Group, a Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company, to invest another $27 million in its plant in Cecil County.

Schaefer said Americans must become more oriented toward international trade. "They must stop crying," he said. "They're bashing everybody, [saying] everything is unfair."

Schaefer said he faces three major problems on the trade front. One is getting constituents to understand that money spent on overseas trade missions is worth it.

Too often, he said, all voters see is a headline that $600,000 was

spent on trips. Many fail to realize that this

may result in $14 million capital investment, 800 new jobs and three new company relocations, he said.

The second challenge is trying to convince small and medium-sized companies there are opportunities overseas, and trying to get large companies to help small companies.

The third is a lack of support from U.S. government agencies, he said. While overseas embassies' staffs are helpful, Maryland lacks support from low-level State Department or Commerce Department officials in the United States. "They're no help," he said.

Delegation members said the United States ignores Southeast Asia.

"It's really essential that American business wake up," said O. James Lighthizer, Maryland's secretary of transportation. "If America is to maximize essential long-term growth, it will have to play [in Asia]. And if they don't maximize it during the decade of the '90s they can forget it."

Schaefer said the state's most important job is probably to bring small and medium-sized companies into the export game and to teach them not to expect miracles over night.

The governor learned this firsthand, he said. On his first trip to Japan he expected to walk away with several million dollars worth of contracts for Maryland. "You sow the seeds [first]," he said.

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