Schaefer as NAFTA Salesman

July 25, 1993

When Gov. William Donald Schaefer was down Mexico way the other day, he advised officials there that they had better start selling the North American Free Trade Agreement to gringo politicians in the Midwest and Northeast sections of the United States instead of "preaching to the choir" of NAFTA advocates in states along the border.

Good idea. Now for a better one.

Maryland's globetrotter governor should start preaching -- and preaching hard -- to his own delegation in Congress. Right now, of the Maryland Ten, only Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore is forthrightly for NAFTA.

As for the Other Nine, Reps. Constance Morella of Montgomery County, Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland, Benjamin Cardin of Baltimore and Roscoe G. Bartlett of Western Maryland count themselves as "leaners" in favor of the treaty, provided the administration works out environmental and labor questions or deals with Ross Perot pressure, the factor "conflicting" Mr. Bartlett.

These Uncertain Four should be Gilchrestized by the governor at the earliest opportunity. NAFTA needs more than waverers. It needs legislators to stand tall for a treaty that is good for the U.S.

We frankly don't quite know if Mr. Schaefer can turn the rest of the delegation. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley of Baltimore County is the state's preeminent protectionist and flat-out against NAFTA. Reps. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore City and Albert R. Wynn of Prince George's County are heeding the siren call of the Congressional Black Caucus, which holds to the dubious theory that NAFTA will lose rather than create jobs for Americans.

Then there are Maryland's two Democratic senators, Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, who already have subscribed to the canard that NAFTA "fails to serve American interests in environmental protection." They are "leaners" of the negative variety. Though we fear these senators will vote against the treaty, they should be the subject of some Schaefer-style importunings.

What the governor knows, as legislators do not, is that the chief executive officer of a state has to tend to the real world of business rather than the passions of protectionist constituents. That means the governor has to promote international trade and investment as a means of bolstering Maryland's economy in a very competitive world. He, not Mexican salesmen, needs to work the delegation.

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