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Schaefer home from trade mission


Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Maryland's globe-trotting chief executive, returned from a four-day trade mission to Mexico last night, pushing for congressional approval of a trade pact and touting new opportunities for Maryland businesses.

"You go first, make contacts, talk to people, survey the situation, and move from there," Mr. Schaefer said at a news conference at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where he and his entourage landed yesterday about 6:30 p.m.

In his second international trip in as many months, Mr. Schaefer -- accompanied by state officials and a trio of Maryland business leaders -- met with business and government officials in Guadalajara and Mexico City.

He also met with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari Monday night to discuss ways to rally support in Maryland for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A controversial treaty, NAFTA is opposed in many industrial states and still must be approved by Congress.

Mr. Schaefer was an early supporter of the treaty, which would eliminate trade barriers among the United States, Mexico and Canada, because he believes it would help state businesses.

One of the business officials accompanying the governor, President Richard Marks of Paris Foods Inc. of Trappe, announced an agreement with a Mexican firm in which his company would buy up to 5 million tons of frozen broccoli.

In exchange, Paris Foods agreed to sell a million pounds of American-grown frozen sweet corn, sweet peas and cut green beans to the Mexican company.

Harold L. Adams, chairman of RTKL Associates Inc., a Baltimore architectural firm, also announced agreements at BWI last night on a pair of Mexican projects.

The first is a $100 million high-rise office building, hotel and retail complex in Guadalajara.

The second project, financed by a Mexican company, calls for the design of a $20 million hotel and condominium resort in South Padre Island, Texas.

Both projects were the result of a joint venture with Gomez Vazquez Aldana & Associates, the largest architectural firm in Mexico.

While the RTKL project was negotiated earlier this year, the trip to Mexico allowed officials to announce the agreement at a well-publicized ceremony Friday.

Mr. Marks said that although his Talbot County-based company had worked with Mexican companies before, the broccoli deal came as "a complete surprise."

Mr. Schaefer also announced that the governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco, Carlos Rivera Aceves, will visit Maryland this fall with a group of top business leaders from Guadalajara to join him in lobbying for passage of NAFTA.

While in Maryland, the group will meet with potential trading partners.

In addition to Mr. Marks and Mr. Adams, Franklin P. Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms Inc., which purchases chicken feed from Mexico, also made the trip.

The private-sector business leaders paid their own way.

The Mexico trip was Mr. Schaefer's 13th trade mission since becoming governor in 1987.

Mr. Schaefer was accompanied by Mark L. Wasserman, state secretary of economic and employment development; Paul E. Schurick, his chief of staff; Page W. Boinest, his press secretary; and two state troopers.

Robert L. Walker, the state secretary of agriculture, joined the group in Mexico City.

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