Gov. Scott Walker heads to Europe this week on a trade mission featuring private meetings with business and government representatives in Germany, France and Spain, as he ramps up for a likely bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
The most high-profile event on Walker's itinerary comes Tuesday when he's slated to deliver a 15-minute speech titled "Opportunities for bilateral trade and investment" at the Hannover Messe trade show in Germany. That is the world's largest industrial fair, Walker's office said in the documents detailing the trip provided to The Associated Press.
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Walker's only other event that's open to reporters is a meeting with representatives from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases to discuss possible collaborations on fighting such deadly ailments as ALS, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's. Richard Moss of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is also participating.
The weeklong trip that begins Friday comes amid Walker's expected run for the White House. But no staff from Walker's political committee is traveling with him on the trade mission, which was organized by the state's chief jobs agency the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
The trip has been in the works since November, when Walker was re-elected to a second term, his office said.
Walker's last trade mission was in February when he went to Great Britain. Walker in 2013 also traveled to China and attended the Japan-Midwestern Conference. Walker's announced itinerary does not include any meetings with the leaders of the three countries he is visiting, but he also did not announce in advance his get-together with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street in February.
Walker drew criticism during his London trip for refusing to answer questions about foreign policy following a speech at an international affairs think tank, as well as not saying whether he believed in evolution.
Unlike the official taxpayer-funded trade missions, Walker's political arm Our American Revival plans to pay for a mid-May trip to Israel. That will be Walker's first trip to that country.
Walker said in a statement that the goal of the upcoming European trip is to "provide state companies with opportunities to establish and develop new partnerships overseas."
Wisconsin's exports are up 18.3 percent, and agricultural exports have increased 50 percent, since Walker took office in 2011.
The 22-member delegation attending the upcoming trade mission includes executives from seven Wisconsin companies, including OEM Fabricators of Woodville, Trans International of Menomonee Falls and Solaris of West Allis. Jim Paetsch, vice president of corporate expansion for the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development organization, along with Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council, are also attending.
Highlights of the trip include:
— Walker and the delegation will meet with business and government leaders in the German state of Hessen, which is Wisconsin's "sister state."
— Walker plans to meet with Stephan Weil, prime minister for the German state of Lower Saxony, to talk about economic development collaborations.
— Walker and WEDC leaders will participate in a business round table discussion in Paris.
— More than 20 Spanish companies are expected to take part in a discussion with Walker in Spain focused on opportunities in Wisconsin.
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