Mass. Gov. to head trade mission to Mexico, Panama
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick is heading off on another trade mission, this time to Panama and Mexico.
The governor said Monday that he would lead a delegation of state officials and business leaders on the March 17-22 trip to Panama City and Mexico City.
Patrick said the goal of the visits is to strengthen existing trade relationships and to build new ones between the emerging economies of Massachusetts and the two countries.
“Leaders in business and government and venture capitalists of Latin America’s growth centers are eager to collaborate with us because they recognize that Massachusetts is an innovation hub with a disciplined strategy for growth,” Patrick said in a statement.
In 2013, Mexico was Massachusetts’ third ranked import partner, with Massachusetts importing about $3.37 billion worth of goods and services, officials said. Massachusetts also shipped off about $1.86 billion in goods and services to Mexico, making it the state’s 3rd ranked export partner.
Panama is a considerably smaller market, ranking just 84 among Massachusetts’ import partners last year, with the state taking in about $4.34 million in goods and services. Massachusetts sent more goods and services to Panama — about $22.5 million worth — making the state Panama’s 51st ranked export partner.
Among those 10-member delegation accompanying Patrick on the weeklong trip are the state’s Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan and Massport CEO Thomas Glynn.
Patrick is becoming one of the state’s most-traveled governors, having embarked on a series of international trade missions since taking office, including visits to Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Ireland, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.
His initial overseas trade mission was a 2007 trip to China during his first year in office.
Most recently, Patrick led a delegation to Asia in December with stops in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Patrick said the goal of that trip was to expand economic development and job creation in the clean tech, life sciences, financial services and transportation sectors.
Critics have faulted Patrick for spending too much time out of state at a time when his administration is facing a series of challenges including the botched roll-out of the state’s new health care website and the overhaul of the Department of Children and Families after social workers lost track of a 5-year-old boy who is now feared dead.
Administration officials have defended the international focus, saying Patrick’s trips have strengthened the state’s economic ties around the globe.
As one measure, Patrick’s office notes that Logan International Airport now serves 36 overseas markets with non-stop service, up from 26 a decade ago, with spending by international visitors hitting $2.3 billion last year. The administration said that spending has helped support 127,000 Massachusetts jobs and generate more than $1 billion in state and local taxes.
They also said that Massachusetts colleges and universities are hosting over 46,000 international students this year, an increase of 13 percent over last year.
The trade missions have been paid for by a combination of private and public money.
Associated Press Writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.