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Trade official: Foreign affairs budget critical to ND companies

WASHINGTON-What does the battle in Washington, D.C., over funding of the U.S. foreign affairs budget have to do with North Dakota? A whole lot, according to Dean Gorder. Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, said the foreig...

Dean Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office
Dean Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office

WASHINGTON-What does the battle in Washington, D.C., over funding of the U.S. foreign affairs budget have to do with North Dakota?

A whole lot, according to Dean Gorder.

Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, said the foreign affairs budget represents 1 percent of the federal budget, but the impact it has on states like North Dakota is huge.

"That 1 percent of the U.S. budget does an incredible amount of groundwork, which then allows us to trade with various countries," Gorder said Tuesday in a phone interview from Washington, where he is attending a summit hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

The coalition describes itself as a group that works to "educate and inspire support from the American public and policymakers on the importance of America's civilian-led tools of diplomacy and development."

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Gorder said the foreign affairs budget falls in that category, as does the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which is funded by the foreign affairs budget and works to help businesses, including many in North Dakota, accomplish international commerce.

Gorder said the bank has become a political football, with some Washington lawmakers branding it "crony capitalism" and pushing for its demise.

In reality, Gorder said, the bank helps small companies in North Dakota survive.

"Everybody perceives the bank as 'Boeing's bank,' " Gorder said, referring to the airplane maker.

But whenever Boeing gets a big contract, there are six companies in North Dakota that end up doing some of the manufacturing, he said.

"Wiring harnesses are made out in Killdeer. From a trade perspective, (the Export-Import Bank) funds all kinds of small companies in North Dakota," Gorder said.

As part of his trip to Washington, Gorder will meet with North Dakota's congressional delegation, all of whom, he said, are aware of the importance of the foreign affairs budget and the need to preserve it.

"Over the last four or five years there has been what I consider disproportionate cuts to the foreign affairs budget. It has been taking a larger than normal hit," said Gorder, who maintained he is not looking to boost that budget, but rather keep the status quo.

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Gorder said he will also stress to members of Congress the importance of working to help calm areas of the world where North Dakota does business, including Ukraine and Russia, which are at violent odds over a rebellion in Ukraine.

"The sooner those types of things get resolved, the more normalcy that will happen in the export world out of North Dakota," Gorder said.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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