Christie to talk trade, energy in Canada

Gov. Christie's trip to Canada in December will include visits to Calgary, Toronto and the capital city of Ottawa. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )

Gov. Christie will lead a state delegation to Canada for two days next month, taking his second foreign trip in several months as he weighs a run for president in 2016.

The Dec. 4-5 trip will include visits to Calgary, Toronto, and the capital, Ottawa, with an aim of strengthening business ties between New Jersey and Canada, the state's largest trading partner, Christie's office said Monday.

In particular, the Republican governor will focus on the energy sector, his office said - as he did during a September trade mission he led to Mexico, where he gave a speech calling for greater investment in energy-related infrastructure to bolster a "North American energy renaissance."

"Too often, our neighbors in Mexico and Canada have felt that they were an afterthought in U.S. foreign policy. My view is that they should be our first thought," Christie said during the speech.

The governor also urged completion of the Keystone XL pipeline project, proposed to run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The House voted last week to authorize construction of the pipeline, which is opposed by environmentalists. The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday.

President Obama, who previously delayed a decision on the project, could veto the action.

In Calgary, Christie will give a speech on North America's energy future, including the Keystone project, said Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the governor.

Christie is expected to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, ministry heads, business leaders, and local officials. He will be accompanied by a state delegation including Larry Downes, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of New Jersey Resources, and Ralph Izzo, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.

No further trade missions are scheduled, Roberts said.

While Christie will lead the delegation on state business, the trip would have implications for a 2016 presidential campaign, strategists said.

Given Canada's significance to U.S. trade, "it's important for a candidate to go up there," particularly to talk about energy policy, said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who was senior adviser to Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Christie could seek to portray Obama's delay on the Keystone project as an example of a policy that has harmed U.S. relations with foreign countries, Schmidt said.

In 2016, "Republican candidates are going to want to communicate credibly that they have a plan to calm a world that seems increasingly in chaos," Schmidt said. Part of a candidate's travel abroad, he said, is about conveying "an image of competence and steadiness."

In Mexico, Christie was subdued during a series of business meetings - in contrast to his sometimes-bombastic presence at home. The governor told reporters on the trip that he had "more than one club in the bag" when it came to leadership style.

Back in New Jersey, he offered a taste of how he might incorporate his travel abroad into a presidential campaign, mentioning his Mexico trip while segueing into remarks about instability elsewhere in the world during a September fund-raising event for the state Republican Party.

"We take for granted the fabulous neighborhood we live in," with "three countries that respect each other's national sovereignty," Christie said.

The Canada trip will be sponsored by Choose New Jersey, a state-affiliated but privately funded nonprofit that also paid for the Mexico trade mission, Roberts said.

Susan White, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit, said it was still projecting the trip's cost. She did not have information on the cost of the Mexico trip.

This will be the third foreign trip of Christie's tenure. In 2012, he traveled to Israel.

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