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L.A. Courts World Trade With Forum for Foreign Envoys : Commerce: The gathering was the first Global Forum, an international business development symposium. Firms pick up $400,000 tab for feting of diplomats.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was an unlikely diplomatic setting. Instead of international talks in the elegant mansions of Embassy Row, there was talk of oranges and aerospace firms in the meeting rooms of the Los Angeles Convention Center--one floor above an auto show.

Several dozen ambassadors had flown from Washington to attend and, certainly, diplomatic skills were in order. They were there to woo and be wooed, negotiating--along with their Southern California hosts--a fine line of commercial self-interest.

The gathering was the first Los Angeles Global Forum, an international business development symposium designed to promote foreign trade with Southern California companies.

Although the Los Angeles region has long courted international customers, forum organizers said it was the first time such a group of high-level diplomats had been assembled in the city.

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“We have in essence a quarter of the diplomatic corps here,” said Curtis Mack, president of the forum. “This is a very unique occasion.”

Diplomats from about 40 countries, from China to tiny Belize, were in Los Angeles for the all-expenses-paid weekend. Aside from Saturday’s Convention Center seminars, they were feted at black-tie dinners, entertained by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and scheduled for a tour today of Universal Studios.

The weekend tab, estimated at $400,000, was picked up primarily by private companies participating in the forum, an alliance of corporate and public officials.

Their intent is to grease the wheels of international commerce and polish Southern California’s tarnished economic image.

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In light of “those natural and man-made disasters we’ve gone through in the last couple of years,” Mack said, “we need to remind the country, remind the world and sometimes remind ourselves that we really have a heck of a lot going for us here.”

Disasters notwithstanding, the regional economy is still larger than that of many countries.

“Southern California has fantastic opportunities,” said Guy Trouveroy, a Los Angeles-based consul general of Belgium whose ambassador had flown in for the weekend. “But it is pretty difficult to pinpoint them because it is so spread out and not very well organized.”

Events such as the forum can bring cohesion to the business landscape, Trouveroy said, adding that tough economic times have taught California some lessons.

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“California had a few punches in the face, no doubt about it,” he said. “California had an attitude problem. It thought everything would come its way.”

Now, he said, companies “realize their growth will depend on trade and international relations.”


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