Christie’s Mexico Trip Touches on Trade, Politics

MEXICO CITY (AP) -

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is multitasking in Mexico, mixing trade talks to help his state’s economy with an effort to burnish his foreign policy credentials if he runs for president in 2016.

Christie is spending his first day meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Wayne, and Sandra Fuentes, the Consul General of Mexico in New York, who helped to plan the trip. He’ll then speak to business leaders and others on the relationship between Mexico and the U.S. Later Wednesday, he was scheduled to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. “We have a full day today, we’re really busy, I’m looking forward to it,” Christie told reporters as he arrived.

The visit provides Christie with early opportunities to sketch out his approach to foreign policy, beginning with trade and investment critical to his state’s economy. New Jersey exports $2 billion worth of goods to Mexico, and tens of thousands of New Jersey jobs rely on the relationship.

But Christie also gets to act as a statesman, giving Americans a glimpse of how he might represent the nation as president. He is the latest potential presidential contender to cross the border on official business — and in pursuit of international expertise and credibility.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul recently returned from Guatemala, where he performed eye surgeries with news cameras in tow. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum just came back from Israel; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is there now. Two days after Christie returns from Mexico, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to head to China and Japan.

The trips, campaign veterans say, give potential candidates the chance to look presidential as they stand side-by-side with world leaders.

Christie, who like many governors, has limited experience with foreign leaders, has a particular challenge when it comes to the delicate art of dealing with the nation’s partners. He rose to national prominence as a brash straight-talker happy to publicly shout down New Jersey residents he disagreed with. On the international stage, he’ll have to show he has the patience and self-control to deal with complicated, high-stakes conflicts.

His inexperience was on display during an appearance with Jewish donors this spring when he referred to Israel’s Yehudah and Shomron as “occupied territories.” He later apologized.