Taking The Politics Out Of Trade Missions

Two cheers for Commerce Secretary William M. Daley, who is depoliticizing the process of inviting CEOs on government-sponsored trade missions abroad. Made a top priority by the late Ronald H. Brown, they have rung up billions of dollars in U.S. exports, from telecommunications gear to aircraft parts to construction services. But too many of the CEOs invited to join Brown wound up becoming large Democratic donors. So Daley has decreed that selection of industry reps for the most sought-after trips will be done by career Commerce employees in an open, competitive process.

From now on, all the criteria for becoming a candidate for a trip will be published in the Federal Register and put on the Internet. Smaller businesses or those without Washington contacts that were left out of the mysterious selection process in the past will have all the information they need.

In announcing the changes, Daley noted that foreign rivals have remained active. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl just took German business execs to Asia. Prime Minister Jean Chretien led a group of Canadian business officials to India and signed some $2.5 billion in contracts. In an era of global capitalism, the U.S. needs a "commercial diplomacy," but it needs a nonpartisan one open to every qualified company.

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