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N.C. Commerce Department's Trip To France Draws Critics

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The State Department of Commerce will lead a trade mission to Europe next month. The search for new industries and investments will include stops in France, a country opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The trip is causing controversy.

First, French wine came under attack, then French fries, as Americans reacted sharply to France's opposition of the war. Now it's North Carolina's trade mission to that's drawing sharp political fire.

Jim Cain is a Raleigh attorney. Former president of the Carolina Hurricanes, he's also thinking about running for political office.

"How do we tell the families in Goldsboro and Fayetteville that we are spending North Carolina taxpayers' money to wine and dine the French while their sons and daughters are fighting and dying in Iraq?" Cain asked.

The State Republican Party also objects to the trip, primarily its timing.

In its defense of the industry recruiting trip, the Department of Commerce points to Dillon Supply Company in Raleigh as one of 90 French affiliates located in North Carolina.

According to the Commerce Department, France is the second-largest foreign investor, with $5 million in investments, and the third-largest foreign employer, with 25,000 jobs.

The Democratic Party's Barbara Allen said statements by Cain and the GOP were silly.

"Not even President Bush has advocated a trade boycott of the opposing countries like Germany and France," Allen said.

Allen also dismissed the statements as political.

Observers say Cain's attack on the Easley Administration is early evidence that he will make a run for political office next year.

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