In nearly 40 years of international negotiations, Mac Baldrige was one of the finest, straightest men I ever met. Will Rogers once said that the United States never lost a war or won a conference. He had never met Mac.

I first came to negotiate with him in 1982 when the Europeans and the United States concluded an agreement on steel. (We sat up night after night at the Department of Commerce. We did so so often after I had just arrived that I referred to him as "my landlord.") Mac never raised his voice or pounded the table. He was always quiet, rational and courteous. He had been a successful CEO, and he always knew his brief backward, forward and sideways. He knew what foreigners wanted, but his job was to get the best deal for the United States. I never met a tougher negotiating partner.

Courage he had in abundance. During one of our first lunches together we discovered that we had both served in the Pacific war. Mac had been a forward observation officer. That meant he went ashore with the first wave of direct artillery fire. Not many of them survived.

With him went a gentle wit. I had to come to him once with an implausible instruction. He leaned back, thoughtfully lighted a cigarette and said, "You're the kind of guy who would sell snake oil as fine vintage wine."

But with all his knowledge of foreign lands, he remained a quintessentially American figure. My wife and I were invited by Midge and Mac to a rodeo outside Dallas. We took a snapshot and sent it to him. There they were in bright sunlight, horseback-riding down Main Street in a small American town. Folk on the sidewalk were applauding, popcorn was being sold, streamers were flying -- it was a touching All-American occasion.

With the passing of Mac Baldrige the United States and the world have lost a great secretary of commerce. I shall always think of him as "Mr. Standfast." I was proud to be his friend. The writer is the head of the delegation of the Commission of the European Communities.