Assessing GATT's impact in Maryland

December 18, 1993|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Staff Writer

An article in Saturday's business section incorrectly reported the position of Joseph C. Stokes Jr. at Life Technologies Inc. of Gaithersburg. He is the company's vice president, chief financial officer, secretary and treasurer.

+ The Sun regrets the errors.

After seven years of negotiation among 117 countries, an immensely complex 800-page agreement, intended to expand global trade by trillions of dollars over the next five or ten years, was signed Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium.

In government trade offices and corporate headquarters around the world, details of the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are still being digested. In fact, the terms of some protocols and regulations to implement the agreement will be under negotiation for months to come, adding additional hundreds of pages to the documents.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Basic objectives of the agreement include lower tariffs, reductions in laws and rules that limit trade, and improvements in the protection of patents, copyrights and other forms of "intellectual property."

To get an initial view of how Maryland's economy might be affected by history's most ambitious global trade agreement, The Sun asked for comments by senior executives of a sampling of companies of widely varied kinds, sizes and locations.

Here are the early impressions of some of those executives.

Bailey A. Thomas, president and CEO, McCormick & Co., producer of spices and flavorings.

"As we were with the North American Free Trade Agreement, McCormick is very strongly in favor of any agreement that enhances world trade. We are very eager that there be a level playing field, and that the United States not be put at any disadvantage. . . . As to specific effects on our company, spices are not generally grown in the United States, and only some items that we import are subject to import duties. For the items that we import that are subject to duties, as these duties come down over the next few years under the agreement, that will be an advantage to us. . . . In a broader sense, this new agreement will enhance world trade and expand world business. As a global player, we see any worldwide expansion of business as very good news."

Curtis H. Barnette, chairman and CEO, Bethlehem Steel Corp., steel maker.

"I traveled to Geneva for the final rounds, and the first thing I want to do is recognize the truly extraordinary efforts of Ambassador Mickey Kantor and the entire U.S. negotiating team. The agreement is extremely complex, and the next step will be to craft the U.S. implementing legislation. We have not yet reached the point we were at a few weeks ago on the North American Free Trade Agreement, where all the terms were well known and people could see just how they might be affected. For us, the first priority right now is to understand the language, and we have a team at work in-house on that. . . . On dumping

issues there is certainly no question that what Ambassador Kantor and his team have negotiated is a big, big improvement over . . . what the rest of the world was proposing. But even dumping itself is not just one issue but a whole host of issues, and we are still in the process of trying to evaluate what impact the agreement's wording may have on existing U.S. law."

John McCaughey, president, M. S. Willett Inc., Cockeysville-based tool and die maker.

"We have not yet had a chance to digest the details, but we are now doing fully a third of our business in Europe, and for us the most important feature will be the atmosphere that is created as the agreement is implemented. We believe it will greatly improve the atmosphere for our overseas sales, creating more willingness to deal with U.S. suppliers. To some extent, Europe is now moving to new levels of technology that make it attractive to consider products like ours, which include machines that make easy-open can tops, wine bottle tops and a variety of other packagings for consumer and industrial goods. . . . We believe this agreement will do a great deal to improve the climate in which we work with these customers."

A. B. Krongard, CEO, Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., investment banking firm.

"We believe in and practice the capitalist system. We are in the business of facilitating the interchange of capital, and anything that makes the flow of goods and capital in the world freer is

good for all business and therefore for our business. We do not have a specific stake in any particular provisions. For us, the advantage will be a better world business climate."

Kirk Renaud, CEO, BioBrite Corp., a Bethesda-based medical technology company.

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