Just back from Far East, Schaefer now looks south


Next stop, Mexico.

That was the word last night from Gov. William Donald Schaefer only minutes after returning from a 13-day trade mission to Singapore and Japan.

The Far East trip took Mr. Schaefer and an entourage of 25 public officials and private-sector business people to four cities in the two Asian nations.

The goals of the trip were to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of Maryland's "sister state" relationship with Japan's Kanagawa Prefecture, to renew old business relationships and to prospect for new ones, Mr. Schaefer said.

Mr. Schaefer noted one of the developments that bore fruit during the trip: a previously announced agreement by Tokyo-based Terumo Medical Corp. to invest an additional $27 million in its Cecil County facility. The expansion will create 29 new jobs, Mr. Schaefer said.

He also announced that Sumitomo Corp., based in Tokyo, has agreed to make renovations to an assembly plant near the Martin State Airport in eastern Baltimore County. It will use the renovated plant to assemble 17 commuter rail cars that will be used in Indiana.

Maryland's Transportation Department agreed to forgo rent in exchange for Sumitomo's agreement to upgrade the plant.

And although the trip yielded few economic development plums, a handful of top officials yesterday repeatedly stressed the value of doing business in the Far East face-to-face.

But no sooner had he landed after about a day of flying home than Mr. Schaefer set his sights to the south for his next trade mission. "My next trip, if I take one, will be to Mexico. I hope to do it this year," he said, adding that he has no firm date in mind.

"Give us time to do some laundry," quipped J. Randall Evans, secretary of economic and employment development.

The governor also took the opportunity to lambaste legislators for threatening to cut funding for Maryland's trade offices in the Far East.

In the legislative session that ended in April, the General Assembly decided to close the state's office in Taiwan and considered cutting the Hong Kong office, which would have left only the Tokyo office.

Calling the Taiwan decision "a total disaster," Mr. Schaefer warned that "if we close our offices in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, we may as well close up shop in terms of international trade."

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