Eight time zones away from Seattle, Martin Daulby is far from the street demonstrations, tear gas and curfews that have marked the beginning of the World Trade Organization's meetings.
Here near Liverpool, Daulby is preoccupied with supervising the installation of a new production plant for Contract Chemicals Ltd., his employer of 14 years.
The two worlds may not seem connected, but they are. The same forces of freer trade and globalization that have triggered the Seattle protests have given Daulby a much-wanted promotion and made 22-year-old Contract Chemicals larger and more prosperous.
The plant addition Daulby oversees will serve a large American customer, and the company's exports to the United States have quadrupled in the last three years, in part due to lower tariffs on chemicals agreed to in the round of trade negotiations preceding Seattle.
If the Seattle protests are about the victims of freer trade, Contract Chemicals and countless other businesses around the world--and the workers of those businesses--are the beneficiaries.
As is often the case, the better-off are quieter than those complaining of harm. No one from Contract Chemicals went to Seattle to demonstrate in favor of the WTO. The 320 employees at four sites in the north of England were too busy earning their living from overseas trade.
"This company largely owes its existence to exports," said Michael Holding, director of business development. Before, tariffs were "a significant barrier to selling things in the United States," he said. "Now, we can concentrate more on quality."
Exports account for nearly two-thirds of Contract's $70 million in annual revenue, including sales to Germany, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy in addition to the United States. If indirect sales are counted, Holding said, as much as 95 percent of Contract's production is shipped out of England. In 1997, the company won an export-achievement award from Queen Elizabeth, which is proudly framed in the front lobby today.
Contract, whose products are sold to drug, cosmetic, photographic or agrichemical firms, opened a U.S. office in a suburb of Richmond in 1996 to handle what has now become more than 100 U.S. customers. Its fortunes are mirrored by other European chemical makers.
Since 1994 chemical shipments from the 15-nation European Union to the United States have doubled. U.S. Commerce Department figures show American chemical companies' exports are flat, while imports from all other countries are up about 10 percent so far this year.
Those exports do not seem to have come at the expense of jobs in the U.S. chemical industry. Since 1995 employment in the industry has been virtually unchanged at slightly more than 1 million jobs.
The customer's location, whether domestic or overseas, was not a prime consideration when Contract's four founders left their jobs and started up their new business in 1977.
"We thought we knew how to make chemicals and how to make them well," said chief executive Tony Bastock. "We thought there must be markets we could supply."
But as the company began breaking into new sales, more and more customers were international. Its first contact with the United States followed a sale to a subsidiary of Monsanto Co. in Europe. That led to further sales to the main plant in Huntsville, Ala. Contract's founders became convinced they needed to break into the American market in a big way.
Being from another country was not a drawback. "We visited a big Memphis customer with a sales agent who was from Philadelphia," Bastock recalled. "I asked him how he felt doing business with a foreigner. He replied: 'Gee, Tony, you ain't the foreigner.' "
As the company grew, so did sales overseas. The United States, with its huge economy and wealth of pharmaceutical and chemical companies, beckoned in particular.
At the same time, import tariffs are coming down for most developed nations under the Uruguay Round trade agreement. From the beginning of 1995 through 2009, tariff rates on chemical products will fall, until none, even those that began at 25 percent, will exceed 6.5 percent.
At Contract Chemicals, officials knew there was a reduction. But it didn't really come home until the day when one of the staffers in the Richmond office called Holding and said he couldn't figure out which tariff should apply to a particular product. Could Holding please look it up?
"He sent me the logs and we discovered we could pay zero tariff instead of 3.4 percent," Holding said. "It was a nice little benefit that helped with a piece of business."
Daulby, meanwhile, is delighted by his new job supervising the American project. His schedule is better than the 12-hour shifts, including nights, that he worked for 14 years at Contract. "After 12 hours, all you can do is go home and lie down," said Daulby, 35. "I much prefer to be on days."
The Great Global Exchange
The volume of total world trade has been rising sharply and is now well over $5 trillion . . .
. . . and trade now accounts for nearly a quarter of the U.S. economy.
World Trade Organization in profile
Purpose: International organization that deals with the rules of trade between nations. It administers trade agreements and acts as a forum for trade negotiations. Decisions are made by the entire membership.
Established: Jan. 1, 1995
Meetings: The WTO's top decision-making body, the Ministerial Conference, meets at least once every two years.
General director: Mike Moore
Membership: 134 countries and 36 observer countries
Secretariat staff: 500
Annual budget: About $74 million
Web address: www.wto.org