SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell made a simple pitch to companies considering participating in Gov. John Baldacci’s first trade mission, to Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“You won’t find a better bunch of people anywhere,” Mitchell said, “except in Maine.”

The Maine Democrat spoke Monday to about 250 business people who are considering joining Baldacci in October for an eight-day trip to meet with potential customers, suppliers or business partners.

The trip, organized by the Maine International Trade Center, will include trips to Derry, Coleraine, Belfast and Dublin. Baldacci will add a one-day visit to Shannon, which is optional for businesses.

Mitchell, serving as President Clinton’s envoy, led the Belfast negotiations that produced the Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

He said Ireland has a highly educated, well-trained and energetic work force – a big reason why the Republic of Ireland has had the fastest-growing economy in Europe for the past seven years.

Isolde Moylan, the consul general of Ireland, said her country works hard to welcome business ventures with U.S. companies.

She said Ireland’s corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in Europe and Irish colleges and trade schools work with companies to give employees the specific skills a business needs.

Like Maine, she said, the country has a mix of large, multinational companies and smaller, locally based businesses. The U.S. high-tech firm Intel, she said, is one of the biggest employers, with about 4,500 workers in Ireland.

For his part, Mitchell encouraged the business people to be patient.

He said that every day spent negotiating in Northern Ireland before reaching the peace agreement was, by definition, a failure.

“We had more than 700 days of failure and one day of success – the day the agreement was reached,” he said.

AP-ES-07-08-03 0759EDT

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