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Gov. Patrick discusses purpose of trade missions

Yawu Miller | 1/11/2012, 8:03 a.m.
Gov. Deval Patrick speaks to reporters from ethnic news outlets in Massachusetts about his administration’s efforts to boost international...
Gov. Deval Patrick speaks to reporters from ethnic news outlets in Massachusetts about his administration’s efforts to boost international trade for state businesses. Looking on are Josiane Martinez, director of the State Office for Refugees and Immigrants and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. Yawu Miller

The 11-day trade mission Deval Patrick and his top aides undertook in December will help Massachusetts’ businesses break into international trade and help the state remain competitive in an increasingly global economy, the governor told reporters Monday.

“It’s all about jobs,” he said during a meeting with reporters from ethnic news media. “The economy is becoming more and more global.”

During the meeting, Patrick spoke in detail about trade agreements he signed with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to expand collaboration on biotechnology, clean energy and education.

He also spoke about trade agreements with Brazil, including an exchange program with agricultural researchers at UMass Amherst and Brazilian researchers aimed at finding ways to grow foods of interest to the Brazilian community in Massachusetts.

“That’s important to us,” Patrick said. “We have a large Brazilian population. Why not take advantage of these opportunities and supply their needs.”

Currently, Massachusetts’ largest trading partners are Canada and Western Europe. Patrick said his administration is prioritizing Brazil because it has growth potential.

“It’s the seventh largest economy,” Patrick said.

“It’s the sixth now,” cut in Brazilian Journal Co-Editor Marcony Almeida. “It just passed the UK.”

“It’s the fastest-growing middle class on the planet,” Patrick continued. “That’s where economies come from. And we have one of the largest Brazilian communities in the United States.”

Patrick said the focus of his trade missions has been to build relationships that can foster greater economic ties between countries like Brazil and Massachusetts.

“It’s not about making a trip and securing orders for widgets,” he said. “It’s about building relationships. People want to know who they are doing business with. They want to know what your strengths are and what are the opportunities for mutual benefit.”

Massachusetts lacks the natural resources that Brazil has. But it has a strong education sector and a fairly well-educated work force, Patrick noted.

“Our innovation sector is strong,” he said. “People want to take advantage of Massachusetts’ colleges and universities. They want to take advantage of the venture capital community.”

Patrick said the increased economic activity spurred by collaborations and trade agreements with Brazil, Chile and other emerging economies would generate jobs in Massachusetts.

“The point is to continue to grow opportunity here,” he said. “There will be all kinds of jobs. Middle-skilled jobs, low-skilled jobs and high-skilled jobs.”

Patrick said the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment is expanding its capacity to serve as a one-stop-shop for small businesses seeking international trade opportunities.

Part of his administration’s motivation for entering agreements with Chile is that country’s low barriers to imports.

“Chile is a relatively easy market to get into,” he said.

Among the domestic issues Patrick discussed with the ethnic media reporters was in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Patrick said he supports legislation that would make it legal for any student graduating from a Massachusetts high school to pay the lower in-state tuition rate, but noted that the Legislature has consistently voted against the initiative.

He voiced support for tougher sentencing for people involved in human trafficking and said he is concerned about the increasing violence among youth in Massachusetts.