Just one day before he gets on the plane, Governor Deval Patrick today announced he is leading a nine-person delegation to Colombia to strengthen business ties between Massachusetts and the South American country.
For the first time during his years in office, Diane Patrick will join her husband on one of his overseas economic development trips, said Patrick spokeswoman Heather Johnson. Patrick has visited Chile, Brazil, England, and Israel during his years in office.
When the governor is in meetings on economic issues, Diane Patrick, who is an attorney, is scheduled for her own consultations with Colombian officials to discuss early education, domestic violence prevention, and other issues of mutual concern, said Johnson.
Johnson said the administration had planned to announce the trip last week, but put that on hold when the Blizzard of 2013 arrived.
“It was not intended to be as last minute, but we wanted to make sure that the storm cleanup was in place before we decided to proceed with the trip,’’ Johnson said of the timing of the trip’s announcement, one day before Patrick leaves the country. “There’s nothing nefarious going on.’’
Patrick is scheduled to begin his meetings on Saturday and stay in the country until next Tuesday.
According to the US State Department, the United States is Colombia’s largest trading partner, and the two countries last May signed a free trade agreement aimed at boosting economic connections.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Massachusetts to compete for jobs on the global playing field,’’ Patrick said in the statement. “We cannot afford to sit idle as our competitors develop the partnerships and secure the investments that will create jobs in the innovation industries where we already have an advantage — life sciences, clean energy, and the digital technologies.’’
Patrick and the delegation are scheduled to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, and leaders of the country’s defense, foreign affairs, commerce, and port offices. They will also meet with the top officials from Colombia economic development organizations known as Colciencias and InnPulsa Colombia, the administration said.
According to the governor’s office, last year, Massachusetts exported approximately $81.5 million worth of goods to Colombia, which made it the state’s fifth largest trading partner in Latin America and 33rd overall. Exports have increased by 12.5 percent over the same period in 2011, according to the administration.
Joining Patrick and his wife are Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki; Massport Executive Director Thomas P. Glynn; Susan Windham Bannister, president of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; Pamela Goldberg, chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative; Alicia Barton McDevitt, executive director of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center; Daniel O’Connell, president of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership; and Kristen Rupert of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts’ International Business Council.