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Clinton Courting Regional Officials President, Power Brokers Meet Today In Portland

Tue., June 27, 1995

President Clinton, back to court the Northwest for the sixth time since winning election, is in Portland today to promote international trade and, of course, himself.

The president touched down late Monday in Portland, where he will head up a daylong conference at Portland State University.

The White House Pacific Rim Economic Conference gives Clinton a chance to strut his stuff before the biggest potential business and political supporters in the region, which he must win in 1996 to be re-elected.

“Washington state is home to the undecided voter,” said Democratic political consultant Cathy Allen. “And he knows it’s a much easier game knocking on doors of people that voted for him in the past.”

Washington and Oregon both went for Clinton in 1992. The two states and California will be needed to offset Clinton’s unpopularity elsewhere in the country, analysts said.

The possible benefits of the conference for Clinton - and even some panel discussion topics - make the reelection maneuvering obvious below the event’s business attire.

“How about that panel on ‘Education and Strains on Working Families’? I thought that was pretty good,” Allen said. “That’s like hanging out a neon light. How big a flag does he have to wave saying, ‘I want you voters back’?”

As a warm-up, bigwigs such as the president of Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center, The Boeing Co. and Gov. Mike Lowry dined with Vice President Al Gore Monday night.

Lowry and Sam Smith, president of Washington State University, were also scheduled to appear with Clinton, Gore and Cabinet members on panel discussions today.

In Seattle, State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said Clinton needs to showcase some successes. And the Northwest, where the economy is relatively strong, is as good a place as any for the president to stand a little taller.

At the conference, Clinton is expected to talk up the importance of international trade for Pacific Rim states - not a hard sell in Washington, where one in every five jobs depends on overseas trade.

“There are tremendous resources outside the U.S. that are not yet tapped,” said Jordan Dey, a Lowry spokesman.

Of the 160,000 businesses in Washington state, only about 3,000 now engage in export trade, he said.

“We are trying to encourage more small and medium businesses to get into the international market,” Dey said.

“We are truly in the middle of many of the world’s trade routes, and already have the infrastructure in place to capitalize on them.”

Major ports in Portland, Tacoma and Seattle are heavily affected by the state’s success in international trade.

That has some leaders of Northwest agriculture, which relies heavily on sales to Japan, worried that Clinton’s threatened 100 percent tariff on luxury automobiles could damage America’s reputation as a reliable source of food and other goods.

“We can’t treat them as some lop-eared hound that we beat into submission until they obey our every wish and whim,” said Jonathan Schlueter, executive vice president of the Pacific Northwest Grain and Feed Association in Portland.

“Eventually, the hound will bite back.”

What if, for instance, Japan sought other markets to supply the 3 million tons of wheat, barley, feed grain and soybeans it buys every year from the U.S., Schlueter said.

Japan is also the world’s biggest buyer of Pacific Northwest wheat.

Others doubt the current trade dispute over car sales will spill over into agriculture.

They believe any retaliation by Japan will be aimed at year-round manufactured goods, rather than seasonal produce.

Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, said at the very worst, consumers would boycott imports. But so far, nerves haven’t been rubbed that raw.

“I don’t see consumers in our country throwing away their TV sets,” Schlect said.

“I’d guess the Japanese consumers aren’t geared to take that kind of action, either.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHO’S WHO Clinton and Gore will meet with, among others, Gov. Mike Lowry, WSU President Sam Smith and representatives of Sacred Heart Medical Center and Boeing Co.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Lynda V. Mapes Staff writer Staff writer Grayden Jones contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHO’S WHO Clinton and Gore will meet with, among others, Gov. Mike Lowry, WSU President Sam Smith and representatives of Sacred Heart Medical Center and Boeing Co.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Lynda V. Mapes Staff writer Staff writer Grayden Jones contributed to this report.



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