Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his Far East trade mission entourage checked out of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo this week just in time for Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles and his group to check in.

They are both selling their state's chickens and soft-shell crabs, both promoting their deepwater ports. They are both representative of the growing number of state government officials who see a growing part of their economies tied to foreign countries, in exports and in jobs provided by foreign firms that locate here.

Especially in Japan, where 47 states have full-time offices to lure Japanese businesses and jobs, the parade of U.S. officials pitching their areas has become something of a blur.

"It's impossible to keep track of them," a spokesman for the Japan External Trade Organization said when asked how many U.S. trade missions have visited Japan this year. "There are too many."

Baliles has proclaimed 1987 Virginia's Year of Trade and is embarking on his third overseas visit of the year. Mayor Marion Barry led a group to China last year to promote Washington, and the District recently established its first separate office of international business.

Schaefer is on his second trip abroad since taking office in January. He announced yesterday that he would be overhauling Maryland's international trade efforts when he returns.

"I don't think enough attention has been paid to international trade" by past administrations, Schaefer said in a telephone conference call from Taiwan to reporters in Annapolis, his second during the trip. "If we're going to do this, we ought to do it right."

Baliles press secretary Chris Bridge said relationships between state governments and foreign investors "have been changing over the last decade as global markets have become a reality."

But local governments are becoming more involved, too. In Maryland, Baltimore has long taken an aggressive posture in luring foreign businesses. Howard County has the highest concentration of foreign firms in the state, and Montgomery County officials have already promoted their high-technology business community in trips to England and Germany.

"Governments are becoming more sophisticated and improving the methods {in which} they promote international trade and reverse investment," said Dennis Murphy, head of economic development for Prince George's County.

Every county in the region can point to its own example of foreign investment: the Greater Washington Board of Trade estimates that 350 foreign firms have offices in the metropolitan area, about one-third of them in the District.

Bridge said that 350 companies representing 22 countries provide 27,000 jobs in Virginia. That reflects an investment of $1.8 billion, she said. And she added that 120,000 jobs are tied to the activities of the state's ports.

In Maryland, about 50,000 jobs are provided by the approximately 500 foreign firms doing business in the state, according to figures provided by the Maryland Department of Employment and Economic Development. A recent study said that 70,000 other jobs are tied to the Port of Baltimore.

"All that really underscores the importance" of the trade missions, Bridge said.

"It's smart business to have a governor acting as the CEO {chief executive officer} of the state," she added.

Yet governors rarely return from the trips with blockbuster announcements of plant openings or new headquarters. For instance, Schaefer has announced that Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. of Osaka is opening an office in Bethesda, but it will employ only three persons.

Officials say that the most important goal of the trips, especially in the Far East, is establishing friendships.

"There is a tremendous amount done on personal relationships," said David Wagner, head of the Maryland Port Administration. Schaefer remarked on the difference of doing business in Taiwan, where he said he was treated "royally."

"First it's getting to know each other and then it's business," he said.

While Schaefer was encouraged by the opportunities, he seemed disturbed about the state's past efforts. Every state wants some of the Japanese business, and Schaefer said he found that business officials in the Far East didn't know enough about Maryland.

"They knew there was a Silicon Valley in California, but they didn't know there was a better Silicon Valley in Montgomery County," Schaefer said.

Maryland Economic Development Secretary J. Randall Evans said that after a briefing of about 30 businessmen in Taipei, the first comment was that "they didn't know anything about Maryland."

But Evans said he hoped to remedy that by marketing the state both as a business opportunity and as a tourist destination.

Maryland, which has both mountains and seashore, likes to bill itself as "America in miniature," Evans said, and "that's a phrase that has caught on."