In Mexico, Christie encourages investment in North American energy

Gov. Christie speaks to business leaders in Mexico City to boost investment in "Nueva Jersey."
Gov. Christie speaks to business leaders in Mexico City to boost investment in "Nueva Jersey." (REBECCA BLACKWELL / AP)
Posted: September 05, 2014

MEXICO CITY - Gov. Christie flew south of the border Wednesday to pitch the Garden State to a country that is one of its largest trading partners.

But by meeting with diplomatic officials, addressing Mexican business leaders, and delivering a policy speech focused on North American energy markets, Christie also presented himself as a leader on a stage larger than New Jersey.

The Republican governor, who is considering a run for president in 2016, launched a three-day trade mission in Mexico that he said was intended to strengthen existing ties between New Jersey and the Latin American country that is its second-largest export partner.

In a speech Wednesday before the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico, Christie highlighted Mexico's role in the global economy, drawing applause when he said "too often, our neighbors in Mexico and Canada have felt that they were an afterthought in U.S. foreign policy; my view is that they should be our first thought."

Christie called for greater investment in energy-related infrastructure and pipelines to support a "North American energy renaissance," driven by increased domestic production in the United States and new opportunities for private investment in Mexico's energy market. The Mexican government received nearly a third of its revenues from the oil industry in 2013.

Clinton, too

The governor criticized the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline project, proposed to run from Canada to Texas, which he said would drive down oil prices and help consumers "in all North American countries." Christie did not directly criticize President Obama, who postponed a decision on the pipeline project that is opposed by environmentalists and some members of Congress.

Christie also did not address the contentious political issue of illegal immigration, limiting his remarks about the border to voicing support for improvements to "border infrastructure" to promote commerce.

Traveling to Mexico, which gives Christie an opportunity to talk foreign policy, is a strong indicator of the governor's presidential ambitions, said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for Politics at Rider University.

"If there's anybody doubting that he's running for president still out there, this trip should convince them otherwise," Dworkin said.

Another possible 2016 contender, Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is expected to visit Mexico City on Friday, according to a Bloomberg News report. Aides said Christie, who will be visiting the Mexican state of Puebla that day, will not meet with Clinton.

No downtime

The prospect of a Christie candidacy did not come up at the governor's public events Wednesday, which began shortly after he arrived midday in Mexico City at the upscale InterContinental Presidente Hotel.

Accompanied by his son Andrew, a junior at Princeton University, Christie met with U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Wayne and Mexican Consul General of New York Sandra Fuentes, telling them he had been excited to arrive. "I don't like downtime all that much," he said.

His next task was to help promote New Jersey to Mexican business leaders. Standing in front of a poster that read "Invest in New Jersey" and "Invertir en Nueva Jersey," the governor described the Garden State and Mexico as "ideal economic partners."

The goal of the event - organized by Choose New Jersey, a state-affiliated, privately funded economic development group that is underwriting the trip - was to drum up business in the Garden State.

Listen and learn

Michele Brown, the CEO of the state Economic Development Authority, told the audience that the state had awarded $1.4 billion in tax credits under an expanded incentive program, highlighting, among successes, a recent $82 million tax credit deal that spurred the 76ers to move their practice facility to Camden.

Other selling points promoted by Brown and Choose New Jersey CEO Tracye McDaniel included the state's location, educated workforce, and higher-education options.

But Christie said he wasn't in Mexico only to try to persuade investors.

"I am also here to listen and to learn," he said. "And I think that's extraordinarily important for any of us who want to have an opportunity to lead and develop our states and grow them in a better way."

Christie was expected to meet privately with Mexico's secretary of energy Wednesday evening, followed by another private meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto. The night was expected to be capped off by a private reception at the residence of Wayne, the ambassador.

The trip is the second international trade mission for Christie, who is accompanied by a state delegation that includes a mixture of CEOs, higher-education officials, and Hispanic leaders and business owners. The governor traveled to Israel in 2012.

609-989-8990 @maddiehanna


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