CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Editorial, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 1997

President Clinton's lengthy-but-fast-paced trade mission continues a new emphasis on relations within the Americas that started before ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The president's trip, while cynically viewed by some as a timely escape from the possibly probing reach of a new special counsel to investigate campaign fund-raising, is more broadly seen as an important message to trading partners to the south.

Clinton, as president, stands at the head of a strong bipartisan coalition in favor of a free-trade zone extending from the Arctic to the Antarctic through the Americas. The concept sends shivers up and down the shaky spines of those who would protect even the most unproductive American workers at any cost. For others who embrace internationalism and the competitive impulse in the global marketplace, free trade means opportunity to create new prosperity - and new American jobs.

The president's trip, if used in a classroom, would look like a primer in the importance of international friendship. It started in Venezuela, the United States' largest supplier of foreign oil. It continues in Brazil, the fast-awakening economic giant whose alliance in economic matters is important for both nations. It will extend into Argentina, a strengthening, renewed democracy with an enormous capacity for productivity and immense natural resources. It will then reach into Chile, whose economic resurgence after decades of instability is already felt in the American marketplace.

The United States obviously still holds the paramount economic position, and the best way to retain that influence is through mutually beneficial cooperation within the Americas. The talk about alliances and partnerships that sprang from ideological goals earlier this century has been surpassed by the need for economic partnerships in a new century and new millennium.

International trade, far from being a subject for other Americans, plays a big role in Mississippi. It's important enough that Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi both have new emphases within their curriculums on learning how to apply its complex lessons in the entrepreneurial marketplace. Ole Miss' advanced education center in partnership with ICC at Tupelo and others is, in part, a direct response to the need for a globally competitive workforce in Northeast Mississippi.

Trade (with China, not with South America) will be the issue debated tonight in a segment of the television program "Firing line" to be taped at Ole Miss.

International business means enough in Northeast Mississippi that furniture makers enthusiastically applaud every new customer from outside the United States.

Several manufacturers based in our region protect their ability to compete (while remaining headquartered in Northeast Mississippi ) with offshore manufacturing operations.

WorldCom, a telecommunications firm headquartered in Jackson, could become even more an international giant if it succeeds in taking over MCI in partnership with British Telecom.

International trade in Mississippi makes the president's far-flung travel seem very close to home - and important to our state's expanding prosperity.

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