Council chairman going to Taiwan to promote trade

March 27, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray has no intention of leaving politics to set up an import-export business, but he'll be in Taiwan next month, hoping to drum up interest in Howard County products.

The invitation came through the National Association of Counties. Mr. Gray serves as a member of the association's task force on international trade.

Because of a trade imbalance, "Taiwan is interested in buying additional U.S. goods," Larry E. Naake, the association's executive director, told Mr. Gray in a letter inviting the 3rd District Democrat to make the trip.

Mr. Gray will pay for his airfare, at a cost of between $1,000 and $1,300.

Other expenses will be picked up by the Taiwanese government, he said.

The trip -- the fifth to Taiwan by association representatives in as many years -- "is a chance to become directly involved in trade matters that could result in new economic opportunities for counties," Mr. Naake told Mr. Gray.

Mr. Gray agrees, saying that between now and his April 16 departure, he will be contacting Howard County businesses to find out what they produce that could be exported.

"They may never have been interested [in exporting] before now because they may not have known it was possible, but this may open up a whole new avenue," Mr. Gray said.

As a rule, small businesses have not done any exporting because they do not have the resources to set up operations overseas, Mr. Gray said.

"That is one of the things government can do," Mr. Gray said, noting that Maryland has an economic development office in Taiwan.

"The government can provide information, experts, attorneys and accountants" for small businesses," Mr. Gray said.

International trade has been so successful, that some of his association colleagues who have made trips abroad have set up export-import businesses upon their return, Mr. Gray said.

He confesses to no such ambitions for himself, but he will meet with the county Chamber of Commerce and the Howard County Economic Development Authority upon his return from the weeklong trip.

Mr. Gray made a similar trip to Italy in 1988 and went to Mexico on the association's behalf earlier this year to learn about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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