Gov. Bobby Jindal will travel to Europe this weekend for a 10-day economic development mission, a trip that also could bolster the Republican’s international relations credentials as he considers a possible presidential campaign.
The governor’s office, which was announcing the plans Thursday, said the primary focus of the visit to Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland is to pitch Louisiana as an attractive place to do business, seeking new foreign investment for the state.
Jindal’s office provided trip details to The Associated Press in advance of the official announcement. The travel contingent will leave Sunday and return to Louisiana on Jan. 20.
“We must go global in our efforts to attract new investment and jobs to Louisiana. Louisiana has an amazing story to tell and the tools to attract companies from around the world,” the governor said in a statement. He said the trip “represents a great opportunity to share Louisiana’s story and establish relationships with companies around the world.”
But Jindal also intends to fit in a foreign policy address while overseas, to the conservative Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank. And the governor’s office said Jindal “will meet with a number of political leaders in the United Kingdom.”
The two-term governor has been speaking with greater frequency about international issues as he lays the groundwork for a potential 2016 White House bid. The Europe visit could be used to try to squelch concerns that as a state leader Jindal lacks the foreign policy experience needed to be president.
Other possible GOP candidates also have been increasing their overseas travel and working to improve their knowledge of international issues. For example, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been cramming in phone calls with foreign policy experts.
For the economic development focus of his trip, Jindal will be meeting with executives of five companies in the manufacturing and services industries that the governor’s office said are considering new projects in Louisiana.
The governor will sit down with leaders of German chemical company BASF, which has its largest North American manufacturing site in Geismar near Baton Rouge, Jindal Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin said. The company has more than 2,000 employees in Louisiana and is considering a plan to build a $1.4 billion propylene plant somewhere along the Gulf Coast.
Names of the other firms weren’t provided, with Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret citing the need for secrecy in business negotiations “for competitive reasons and to protect confidential company information.”
Traveling with the governor will be: Plotkin, Moret and members of Moret’s staff. Also participating in some meetings will be Greg Rusovich, chairman of the Louisiana International Commerce Board, and Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., the economic development arm for the New Orleans region.
Jindal traveled to Asia a year ago on a similar visit with senior executives from companies he was seeking to woo to Louisiana. The January 2014 trip to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan was the governor’s first overseas economic development mission in his two terms in office.