EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 15, 2013

Patrick heads to Colombia for five days

State House News Service
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick plans to leave today on a five-day trade mission to Colombia, the fourth international trip of his governorship and the governor’s second visit to Latin America.

The itinerary came together over the past several weeks, but the trip’s announcement was delayed due to the severe winter storm that blasted the state last weekend.

The governor plans to travel to Bogota, the Colombian capital, to meet with President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon. Patrick also plans to visit Cartagena and several lesser-developed cities with a contingent of state officials and others representing Massachusetts businesses and the state’s life sciences, technology and clean energy sectors.

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

Unlike Patrick’s past trade missions to more established foreign economic centers such as Israel, Great Britain, China, Brazil and Chile, the trip to Colombia has been designed to position Massachusetts to “get in on the ground floor” with an emerging South American economy, according to the administration official.

In October 2011, Congress approved a free trade agreement with Colombia that opened up a $1.1 billion market for United States exports. The agreement took effect in May 2012, and the Patrick administration hopes that by establishing relationships early it can position Bay State businesses to take advantage of the opportunities in the emerging Colombian marketplace.

In 2012, Massachusetts exported approximately $81.5 million in goods and services to Colombia, making it the state’s fifth largest trade partner in Latin America and 33rd largest overall. Bay State companies like Big Belly trash compactors, Mavel, a Boston-based hydro company and the New Bedford electric vehicle company Vetrix are already doing business in Colombia, contributing to a 12.5 percent growth in exports last year.