MEXICO CITY — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) south-of-the-border tour wrapped up its second day on Thursday, as he met with businessmen in Mexico City and signed an agreement to boost educational exchanges -- but shied away from the hot-button issues between the two countries.
The Republican’s second foreign trip as governor—the first was to Israel—has attracted attention for several reasons. It’s an opportunity to test-drive his diplomatic gravitas, ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run. And his presence in Mexico might help court the ever-growing Latino vote, which has eluded Republican candidates in recent presidential elections.
Christie’s early message has been one of more reliance on North American energy. He called for an end to the U.S. ban on crude-oil exports and for pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline.
“It is striking in looking at events around the world, with turmoil throughout much of the Middle East, with Europe struggling to generate economic growth coming out of the recession, to consider, perhaps as a model, what we are trying to build here in North America,” he was quoted as saying.
Over the first two days of his trip, Christie has also stressed that he’s in town to “listen and learn.” He’s met with different groups of businesspeople, addressing the American Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday and breakfasting with two dozen local leaders on Thursday. He also sat with cabinet ministers and President Enrique Peña Nieto. In his public statements, he’s stayed clear of the more contentious aspects of neighborly relations: illegal immigration, border security, the drug war.
His entourage is a mix of New Jersey business and academic people and his son, Andrew, a Princeton University student.
Christie will have to share the Mexican political stage on Friday. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, a potential presidential opponent, will also be in town.