Mass. governor to lead trade mission to Colombia

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BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts trade delegation led by Gov. Deval Patrick will visit Colombia to pursue new business opportunities with the South American nation, the governor's office announced on Thursday.

The trade mission scheduled for Feb. 16-19 will include stops in Bogota and Cartegena, and will include meetings with key Colombian business and governmental leaders, including President Juan Manuel Santos and several top ministers.

The mission seeks to strengthen the state's ties to the nation after the U.S. signed a trade agreement last year aimed at expanding American exports to Colombia by more than $1 billion.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Massachusetts to compete for jobs on the global playing field," Patrick said in a statement.

Colombia has a growing presence in industries such as life sciences — including medical device manufacturers — and clean energy.

Patrick will be accompanied by his wife, Diane, and other officials including Greg Bialecki, the state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development; Thomas Glynn, executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority; and Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

The governor's office said the trade mission was expected to cost about $180,000, with part of the tab picked up by private businesses.

Massachusetts exported approximately $81.5 million to Colombia last year, placing it 33rd among the state's trade partners.

This will be Patrick's second trade mission to South America and fourth overall as governor. He led a delegation to Brazil and Chile in December 2011, and another earlier that year to Israel and England. He also led a trade mission to China in 2007.

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