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Column: International trade is hot topic for Atlanta business leaders

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 6

The threat of a looming international trade war is on the minds of local international leaders and Atlanta executives.

“We are hopeful there will be no trade war,” said Dave Abney, CEO of United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) after a recent meeting of the Atlanta Committee for Progress. “We believe in free and fair trade. We also believe countries should abide by the trading rules. We do get concerned about retaliation. We would advise on finding ways to avoid a trade war.”

At The Rotary Club of Atlanta’s April 2 meeting, international trade also was top of mind.

Dave Abney

UPS Dave Abney at the World Affairs Council anniversary celebration (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, Britain’s consul general in Atlanta, said his countrymen “are strong believers in free trade.”

Then the moderator, Adrian Cronje of wealth management firm Balentine, followed up by pointing out England’s vote to withdraw from the European Union.

Pilmore-Bedford said his government has made it clear that it is “not t turning its back on international trade.”

In fact, he added the United Kingdom would welcome bilateral trade talks with the United States. ”We think a trade agreement has great benefits for both the United States and the United Kingdom,” he said.

Nadia Theodore, Canada’s consul general in Atlanta, said trade was in her country’s DNA. Given its small population and large land mass, “Canada has for a long time decided that trade is necessary.”

In a previous role, Theodore worked on the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, and she expressed disappointment that the United States has walked away from that agreement.

But she remains hopeful that the United States will not leave the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying she is “an eternal optimist.”

By the way, Abney was asked about the prospects of Amazon.com Inc.’s (Nasdaq: AMZN) second headquarters coming to Atlanta. Amazon is one of UPS’s largest customers.

“We are in every major city,” Abney said. “We don’t think it’s our place to tell Amazon where to be located. We think that Atlanta has got a great value proposition. It depends on what their needs are.”

Before Rotary’s international trade panel, former Morehouse School of Medicine President James Gavin recalled a special moment in his life when he was only 14 years old in Mobile, Ala., in 1958 when he was asked to recite the Gettysburg address before a crowd of 3,000 people.

The keynote speaker was Martin Luther King Jr. When Gavin finished, King told him: “That was well done young Gavin, well done indeed.” He can still hear those words 60 years later.

March for Humanity

On April 9th, the King Center will lead the community in a March for Humanity at noon starting in front of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and it will end in at the Martin Luther King Jr. Statue in front of Georgia State Capitol, where a public program will be held.

The march will mark the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral procession in Atlanta.

The march is part of the Drum Major Project, which is holding workshops ans and gatherings at schools, libraries, arts centers, spiritual groups and other diverse communities.

So far, more than 2,000 participants including children and elders, teachers and military personnel, librarians and pastors have been reached through Drum Major’s programs.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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