Md. making strides in boosting international trade

May 18, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Maryland must bolster its manufacturing base and upgrade its airport to excel at international trade, according to a report issued today by the University of Baltimore.

The "International Scorecard," released to coincide with World Trade Week, ranks Maryland near the bottom of the 50 states in terms of value of products exported. The state also has a below-average ranking in employment at foreign-owned companies.

But Maryland gets high marks for its efforts to promote exports and for expenditures to attract foreign investment.

Daniel E. Costello, dean of the Robert G. Merrick School of Business, which wrote the report, said the message is that Maryland is making progress in creating an international economy.

"We all know that Maryland has not fared well, but when you look at the progress that has been made in the last four to five years, we're on the right trend," he said.

To create the scorecard, the school analyzed the state's exports, amount of foreign investment, and underlying factors such as taxes, wages and market size. Figures were indexed to show the national average and Maryland's relationship to other states.

The value of Maryland exports was 50 percent below the national average, placing Maryland 39th among states in that category, according to the report. Maryland ranked 23rd in terms of the number of foreign affiliates, based on 1989 statistics. And the state ranked 35th in terms of employment at foreign affiliates.

Maryland's best numbers came in rankings of trade-related spending. The state ranked sixth in terms of spending to promote exports, and fifth in spending to attract foreign investment.

The state's growth in exports between 1988 and 1991 also increased more than the national and regional averages, the report says.

The report said Maryland's economy remains too dependent on government, defense and service industries, and its tax burden -- 17 percent above the U.S. average -- discourages foreign investment. Another major concern: a shortage of skilled labor capable of meeting the demands of the high-technology and biotechnology industries Maryland is trying to attract, Mr. Costello said.

The report is designed to establish a benchmark for measuring future progress, Mr. Costello said. The only specific policy recommendation is a call to expand the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Although far less is exported by air than by ship or truck, Mr. Costello said export growth will come from products transported by air, such as electronic equipment, instruments and medical commodities.

Meanwhile, the state, releasing its own report today, said Maryland continued to increase its international business activity over the past year, despite the recession.

The state said the value of Maryland exports increased from $3.2 billion in 1990 to $4 billion in 1991, international air cargo through BWI doubled between 1989 and 1991 and international passenger traffic increased 77 percent.

The state report also said that between 1988 and 1989 the amount of direct foreign investment in the state increased 30 percent, the largest increase in the United States. Maryland's estimated 800 foreign affiliates employ 78,400 workers and generate $195 million in tax revenues.

A number of seminars are being held this week to commemorate World Trade Week. Events include seminars on doing business in Europe, Eastern Europe, Canada, the Caribbean and Africa, a business-to-business trade show, and meetings with economic ambassadors from various countries.

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