Today in Richmond, Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles' International Trade Commission will release a long-awaited report on how the state can help Virginia companies improve their export performance.

Tuesday at the Baltimore convention center, Maryland's State Trade Policy Council will kick off "How To Succeed In World Trade," the state's second annual international trade conference. All year long, in fact, officials in the capitals of Virginia and Maryland have talked about the importance of export promotion, of finding new overseas markets, and of promoting their states' industries.

Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer went on two overseas trade missions this year, his first year in office, telling reporters during the second trip, "I don't think enough attention has paid to international trade" by past Maryland administrations.

Baliles has taken three trips abroad this year -- two 12-day jaunts to the Far East and England, Sweden and Denmark, and then back to the Orient this fall for 17 days in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan with 100 hand-picked goodwill ambassadors from Virginia industry -- all in the name of the "year of trade" he proclaimed with great fanfare during his state of the commonwealth address in January.

"We ignore the changes in this world at our peril," Baliles told the annual National Governors Association meeting in July, where he argued strongly that individual states should pursue their own international trade policy.

"For some years, trade promotion was simply a fad," said Miles Friedman, executive director of the National Association of State Development Agencies in Washington. "But it's been very interesting to watch this region because Maryland and Virginia have begun to take their efforts so seriously."

The District has been less active, because of its tiny industrial base, although Mayor Marion Barry visited China last year in an attempt to drum up business and has set up an office of international business.

Baliles' trade crusade grew, in part, out of a 1986 study showing that only 6 percent of small businesses in Virginia had any export business, and that 77 percent of owners of small business said they had no interest in exporting.

Maryland's effort was spurred by a similar report in 1985 that showed the state well down in national state-by-state rankings of export performance.

The two states have taken divergent paths toward export promotion, with different results.

Precise analysis of the states' export promotion efforts is impossible because the most recent figures on exports by individual states made available by the Commerce Department are for 1984. That year, Virginia exported $2.9 billion worth of goods, placing it 19th among the states, while Maryland shipped $1.1 billion in exports (33rd place). Those figures have risen, experts say.

But business executives and other experts say Maryland's efforts to promote trade are more impressive than Virginia's. While Maryland's efforts have become something of a model for similar programs, some skeptics have questioned Virginia's commitment beyond Baliles' rhetoric, and wags have renamed the governor's "year of trade" as the "year of the fade."

Virginia's trade promotion effort is divided among three agencies -- the Virginia Port Authority, the state's agriculture department, and the state's office of economic development. The three departments have shared an office in Brussels since 1969, and since 1981 have jointly staffed a trade mission in Tokyo.

But for years the emphasis in Virginia's international work has been on attracting foreign business to the state. The chief goal of Baliles' year of trade has been to put equal emphasis on export promotion.

"The bottom line of job creation is the same," said Hugh Keogh, director of the state's economic development office. "But we see this as a service to companies that are already here."

At Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Baliles has established the Virginia Center for World Trade, a clearing house for export information and market research with a half-dozen full-time staff.

Earlier this year, Baliles compared his campaign to a television commercial. "All this takes a while," he said. "The message needs to be drummed home. ... There's a need for repetition."

"Basically, we're trying to raise the level of awareness about exporting in the state," said Chris Bridge, the governor's press secretary.

A number of Virginia's business leaders have welcomed the governor's efforts. "We've very impressed," said J. Ed Ramsey, international sales director for Taylor-Ramsey Corp., a Lynchburg-based lumber company. "The governor has gone overseas to help promote producers of products like ours. He's got a tremendous interest in trade."

But others have their doubts. "While we think of governors in awesome terms, Tokyo sees a dozen officials like that a week," said John Lenkey, who headed the Virginia economic development office under former governor Chuck Robb and now is president of Global Business Connections Inc., a business consulting firm. "Governors are a dime a dozen in places like London."

To Lenkey, Baliles might have been better off visiting Canada, America's largest trading partner. "But no Virginia governor has ever gone to Canada on a trading mission," he said. "It's just not sexy enough."

Baliles set up the 20-member International Trade Committee in March, and commissioned a major study of private-sector attitudes toward international trade in Virginia and the effectiveness of the existing trade promotion effort to help the committee in its deliberations. But according to Keogh, the recommendations to be released today "will not represent any great reorganization of the way things are now, just fine-tuning of the existing structure."

Then there's the question of funding. "I'm aware that there is a lot of effort and concern on the part of the governor," said Robert L. McKee, president of ECI Equipment International Ltd., a Sterling-based export firm. "But I have the strong feeling that Virginia isn't spending the type of money that they should."

During Baliles' "year of trade" this year, no increases were planned for the trade offices and the field staff that actually works with Virginia firms. The budget of the state office of economic development hasn't gone up for years, although the department has a standing request for "substantial" increases in international resources. "I don't know if we can expect it to go up," Keogh said.

Maryland's export promotion effort, by contrast with Virginia's, is centered on one agency, the Office of International Trade. The office is running Tuesday's trade conference,"The governor has gone overseas to help promote producers of products like ours. He's got a tremendous interest in trade." -- J. Ed Ramsey, Taylor-Ramsey Corp. which several hundred business executives are expected to attend for a day of of seminars on everything from trading with Canada to dealing with export regulations.

The Maryland trade office, which has a staff of nearly 20, offices in Hong Kong and Brussels, and an annual budget of $1.5 million, was specially funded two years ago to arrange export contacts and trips to foreign trade shows for promising small and medium businesses.

"When I first heard of them, I expected to find a office looking for some {public relations} for the state," said Bill Hall, vice president of Igene Biotechnology Inc. in Columbia. "But it was just the contrary. They couldn't do enough."

Igene went to a major biotechnology trade show in Hanover, West Germany, this fall with a number of other Maryland companies, and Hall says state trade officials did everything from setting up meetings with interested European distributors to reproducing Igene's letterhead in French and German.

"People there from other American states couldn't believe what Maryland was doing for us," he said. "There was absolutely no comparison."

Palantir Co., a six-year-old Rockville software company, hooked up with the Maryland trade office last spring before a major computer show in Germany.

The trade office helped Palantir translate and send out thousands of letters in advance of the trade show. "You can be standing in a booth and no one will know about you," said Mark Frederiksen, Palantir's technical director. "They went and targeted people who were coming to the convention. That's a plus that not too many other states do."

Although Palantir officials won't release specific figures, they say that as a result of contacts made at the German show and at a November trade show in Korea, overseas business will soon account for about 50 percent of Palantir's revenue. "We've had experience with trade officials in Texas, but we got far more support from Maryland," Frederiksen said.

Apart from trade shows, the office also conducts overseas market research for interested Maryland companies. Hobby House Press Inc. of Cumberland, for example, a major publisher of books and magazines on doll and teddy-bear collecting, has worked with the Maryland trade office for about a year. "They set up eight appointments for us in Europe," said Hobby House President Gary Ruddell. "They've been fantastic." The 45-year-old firm already has $100,000 in new business because of the trade office, Ruddell said.