By all accounts, former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue hit one out of the park when the now-U.S. Secretary of Agriculture played host to the agriculture ministers of Canada and Mexico in Savannah this week.
Already widely credited with helping to moderate the Trump Administration’s stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been as much a boon for America’s farmers as it has been a bust for manufacturing interests, Perdue broke with tradition in setting the table for NAFTA agricultural talks, expected to begin in earnest later this year.
Instead of hosting his colleagues for a trilateral meeting inside the beltway, Perdue chose to invite them – and their wives — to his comfort zone, where they spent several days getting to know one another, enjoying unique Southern cuisine and talking informally about the issues that most concerned each of them.
The approach also gave Perdue a chance to show off his home state and put a spotlight on one of his proudest achievements as governor – the exponential growth of the Port of Savannah.
The three toured the ports, pausing at Garden City Terminal’s Container Berth 9, where the 1,200-foot-long CMA CGM Lyra was working under five ship-to-shore cranes.
With a capacity of 11,300 TEUs – or 20-foot container units – the Lyra is typical of the new Neo-Panamax container ships coming through the expanded Panama Canal to call on the U.S. East Coast.
The setting gave MacAulay and Calzada a close-up look at the port that handled 17 percent of Canada’s – and 11 percent of Mexico’s – East Coast container trade in 2016.
While the three met early Tuesday to talk about NAFTA, Perdue stressed that the heavy lifting is still to come.
“The purpose of this gathering is not to make any major recommendations,” he said Tuesday. “That will be done by our official trade negotiators. But it’s important for all three countries that we develop personal relationships of trust and candor in discussing the issues we’ll be dealing with in the NAFTA renegotiations.”
Canadian Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay agreed, praising Perdue’s approach to the upcoming discussions.
“It’s so important when you have the rapport we have developed,” he said. “”There are always going to be issues and we will deal with those issues.”
Jose Calzada, Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, also stressed the importance of trust as negotiations go forward.
“This is a nice moment and opportunity for us to put the politics aside, become friends and send a strong message to the people in all three countries that the evolution of NAFTA is one that will complement all of our economies,” he said.
A mea culpa
One of the really fun parts of this job, as any daily reporter will tell you, is that when you make a mistake, you make it in print and online in front of tens of thousands of your closest friends.
And, after 30 years in this business, I have made my share of doozies.
Once, when writing about big cranes coming upriver to the port, I inadvertently misspelled the word winch, changing its meaning from a type of pulley used for hauling to a slang expression for a working girl. Needless to say, I caught more than a little flak from readers over that unfortunate swapping of vowels.
“That’s hard work,” a reader wrote, tongue in cheek. “I sure hope GPA is paying those girls well.”
On another occasion, I single-handedly launched a Gulfstream G550 business jet into space, reporting it could cruise at altitudes of up to 50,000 miles. It should have been feet.
Last week, I added a new entry to my top three all-time gaffes when I said that a TEU was a 10-foot-long container.
The worst part of that was it was in a column all about containers in which I was explaining, once and for all, the definition of a TEU.
Regular readers of this column know that I know a TEU is a 20-foot container — where that brain blip came from, I have no idea. Of course, my sweet mother always said you’re never quite so stupid as when you’re trying to look smart. So there’s that.
For all the readers who kindly ribbed me about that — and past goofs – thank you. To those who couldn’t wait to tell me what a moron I am, at least you were leaving other people alone while you were busy torching me. But, most importantly, you were reading.
For that I thank you.
Senior business reporter Mary Carr Mayle covers the ports for the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow. She can be reached at 912-652-0324 or at email@example.com.
Following are the ships expected to call on Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City and Ocean terminals this week. Schedules are supplied by GPA and are subject to change.
TERMINAL VESSEL ETA
GCT CHARLESTON EXPRESS Today
GCT CMA CGM AMBER Today
GCT MSC KARLSKRONA Today
GCT MARGARETE SCHULTE Today
GCT MAERSK COLUMBUS Today
GCT MAERSK WILMINGTON Today
GCT NYK RUMINA Today
GCT HOUSTON BRIDGE Today
GCT MSC MAUREEN Today
GCT NYK DAEDALUS Today
OT GENIUS HIGHWAY Today
OT TAMESIS Today
GCT CMA CGM THAMES Saturday
GCT ERRIA SWAN Saturday
GCT MSC NILGUN Saturday
GCT MSC ILONA Saturday
GCT CMA CGM LA TRAVIATA Saturday
GCT MAERSK KOKURA Saturday
GCT MAIPO Saturday
OT BBC MAPLE LEA Saturday
OT TAIPAN Saturday
OT SPRING QUEEN Saturday
GCT HUMEN BRIDGE Sunday
GCT MSC RITA Sunday
GCT MAERSK SHENZHEN Sunday
GCT WASHINGTON EXPRESS Monday
GCT MAERSK DHAHRAN Monday
GCT MAERSK MEMPHIS Monday
GCT MOL MAJESTY Monday
GCT CMA CGM ATTILA Monday
GCT ZIM BARCELONA Monday
GCT MAERSK SAIGON Tuesday
GCT MSC MELISSA Tuesday
GCT CMA CGM MOLIERE Tuesday
GCT ZIM CONSTANZA Tuesday
GCT MSC MONICA Tuesday
GCT MAERSK KOTKA Wednesday
GCT STOLT COMMITMENT Wednesday
GCT BARGE PENN 81 Wednesday
GCT TAMMO Wednesday
GCT NAGOYA EXPRESS Wednesday
GCT GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE Thursday
GCT HAMBURG BAY Thursday
GCT NYK RIGEL Thursday
GCT BROTONNE BRIDGE Thursday
OT TONSBERG Thursday