Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Agreement May Open Trade Avenues for Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Agreement May Open Trade Avenues for Oklahoma

Article excerpt

The proposed North American Free Trade Agreement certainly has provided excellent fodder for political commercials this election season.

Depending on who you listen to, the proposed treaty would either give a shot in the arm to segments of the national economy, or would assure the loss of many American jobs.

As for Oklahoma, Gary Miller, head of the international division of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, said it could open trade avenues for some state manufacturers, but the agreement must be monitored closely in the areas of agriculture and energy.

"It's my belief that businesses that are not profitable now in the United States, and are having difficulties and closing down, leaving and going somewhere else _ whether to Mexico, Asia or some other place _ that's going to happen with or without NAFTA," Miller said.

"What will change is, the tariff that Mexico has on goods coming into Mexico will be reduced through NAFTA, and therefore will make our products less costly to the Mexicans," he said. "And one would assume we will then be selling more to the Mexicans as a result.

"That's the top side of it. If the Mexicans are buying more, then we're profiting from it."

There are issues involving grain and wheat exports that are important to Oklahoma, and they center not on Mexico but on Canada, Miller said. About three years ago, the United States signed a free trade agreement with Canada. Because Canada provides transportation subsidies, it has captured a 76 percent market share of wheat exports to Mexico, according to U.S. Rep. Glenn English, D-Okla.

Miller said the United States and Canada should go back to their free trade agreement and deal with the issue between the two, to try and get the wheat export market more competitive for the United States.

Regarding energy technology and related goods, the United States needs to make sure Mexico has a schedule for the privatization of energylated activities, Miller said.

"That is happening, and there are some aspects that are not yet open to foreign involvement," he said. "We would anticipate that as we move through time, and they're able to change their structure in this industry, that more of that (business) would become available to foreign buyers, sellers and competitors."

Pemex, which is Mexico's governmentned oil company, is a "sacred cow," and there are aspects that country is unwilling to let go of at this time, Miller said. . . Capital Access Program Finds Early Success

The Oklahoma Capital Access Program is finding early success in the marketplace, according to Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Greg Main.

Under the program, a lending bank decides who to lend to, then enrolls the loan in the capital access program. The borrower and bank put up equal guarantee fees that amount to a small percentage of the total loan. Then the Oklahoma Capital Investment Board matches the percentage, and the total guarantee goes into a loan loss reserve pool.

So far, 17 banks have enrolled in the program, and seven loans totaling just over $500,000 have been booked. Loan proceeds have gone toward purchase of a truck, renovation of a building, to build purchase inventory and for general working capital, Main said.

"That's an average of $70,000 per loan, in a market that hasn't been served well in the past," he told members of Oklahoma Futures this week.

The member banks are located in Altus, Blackwell, Chickasha, Claremore, Lawton, McAlester, Oklahoma City, Ponca City, Stillwater and Tulsa. . . South OKC Chamber Supports State Questions

The South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce has voted to support State Questions 649 and 650, which call for a $350 million bond issue for capital projects that would mostly benefit colleges and universities, according to Pam Holtzclaw, executive vice president. …

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