Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Urged to Go Global

By Matt Hines

Staff Writer

If Fairfax County plans to capitalize on infotech markets abroad, the time to act is now.

That advice to the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce comes from Martin Kamarck, president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

"Right now foreign markets are going through significant changes. Any hesitation on our part in getting involved in these markets could hold us back from letting international business pull us into the year 2000 economically," Kamarck said at a March 13 meeting sponsored by the chamber.

At the meeting, Kamarck spoke about the challenges and prospects both his organization and U.S. businesses face in trying to find a way into developing foreign markets. It was the latest in a series of events sponsored by the chamber's International Committee, which has been encouraging the group's 2,000 corporate members to think globally, according to Judy Gray, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

Future events will include a second annual international luncheon being planned for late June, she said.

The chamber is also linking foreign business representatives with area businesses to help local manufacturers get their products into developing markets. The chamber is conducting that program in conjunction with the U.S. State Department and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Gray said.

A group of delegates from China will meet with chamber members in Fairfax County later this
month to discuss possible business partnerships.

"[U.S. businesses] are only now beginning to recover and catch up globally as far as international business is concerned," said Kamarck.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States, an independent agency, provides financial insurance to U.S. companies and their banks to encourage trade with unstable overseas markets in Asia, the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.

Members of Congress will decide whether to sustain the bank on Sept. 30, when its current charter runs out.

The Export-Import Bank's critics call it a federally funded system of corporate welfare and argue
that American taxpayers should not be funding the overseas business ventures of wealthy, private companies.

When asked what it will mean if the bank's charter is not reinstated, Kamarck said, "Some people liken the situation today to a cold war on unilateral business. If the United States does not continue to support its place in emerging markets, the contracts will go to German, Japanese and British companies."

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