Christie to Mexico on trade mission, 2016 politics

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Christie to Mexico on trade mission, 2016 politics
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to reporters during a news conference following his signing of the state's 2016 budget, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Trenton, N.J. Christie vetoed more than $1.6 billion from the 2016 budget approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed a roughly $34 billion budget into law. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signs the state's 2016 budget, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Trenton, N.J. Christie vetoed more than $1.6 billion from the 2016 budget approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed a roughly $34 billion budget into law. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a breakfast ahead of this afternoon's convening of the Georgia Republican Convention, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Latino Coalition Business Summit held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely Republican 2016 presidential candidate, addresses a crowd during a town hall style event at an American Legion post, in Pembroke, N.H., Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
In this May 12, 2015, photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely Republican 2016 presidential candidate, addresses a crowd during a town hall style event at an American Legion post, in Pembroke, N.H. Christie isn’t yet officially running for president. But it’s clear he and his team are staking his likely bid for the GOP nomination on success in New Hampshire and its first-in-the-nation primary. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to reporters after a meet-and-greet at a restaurant in Flowood, Miss., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. Christie, in his first out-of-state trip since two former allies were indicted and a third pleaded guilty to corruption charges for their roles in the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal, is on a jaunt through Mississippi and Louisiana to raise money for fellow Republicans. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie gestures while speaking at the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) in Tyson's Corner, Va., Friday, May 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering during a town hall meeting Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Cedar Grove, N.J. Christie blasted the Democrat-controlled Legislature on Thursday over its decision to file a brief asking the Supreme Court to side with the public sector unions suing his administration over a decision to scale back promised payments into the state workers' pension system. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gives the keynote address at the Macomb County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Dinner fundraiser in Shelby Township, Mich., Friday, March 27, 2015. (Paul Sancya)
Republican candidate for Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, far left, watches as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, second from left, campaigns for Hutchinson at Lindsey’s Barbecue in North Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, speaks on behalf of Republican candidate for Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, left, at Lindsey’s Barbecue in North Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Christie is a potential 2016 presidential candidate and chairs the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, speaks with campaign volunteers during a stop at Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's Chicago campaign headquarters Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. While speaking with the volunteers, the Republican Governors Association chairman said he questions the motivation behind Illinois' new same-day voter registration recently signed into law by Rauner's opponent, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn. Christie claims that decision and voter law are attempts to boost votes for Quinn. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, speaks with campaign volunteers during a stop at Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's Chicago campaign headquarters Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. While speaking with the volunteers, the Republican Governors Association chairman said he questions the motivation behind Illinois' new same-day voter registration recently signed into law by Rauner's opponent, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn. Christie claims that decision and voter law are attempts to boost votes for Quinn. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering during a town hall meeting, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, in Ocean City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, right, chat as they take a tour of a laboratory at the Southern Research Institute on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Birmingham, Ala. Christie praised Bentley’s fiscal stewardship Wednesday during the stop to raise money for Bentley’s re-election campaign and GOP executives in other states. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, heads out of BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H. after stumping for Republican candidate for governor of New Hampshire, Walt Havenstein, second from right, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Christie has been traveling around the country boosting Republican candidates in his role as chair of the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, second from right, shakes hands with Republican gubernatorial candidate for New Hampshire, Walt Havenstein, right, after a campaign stop at BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H. on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Christie has been traveling around the country boosting Republican candidates in his role as chair of the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
In this July, 12, 2014, photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention in Nashville, Tenn. Christie came into office declaring "a new era of accountability and transparency." Yet after winning a second term in 2013, and as he explores a run for president, a wide variety of people say his administration routinely stonewalls even the most basic requests for public records. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
FILE - This June 25, 2014 file photo shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking in Haddon Heights, N.J. Conservative Republicans claimed victory this week in the Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom and the White House’s acceptance that an immigration overhaul won’t happen this year. Today’s victories could haunt the GOP in two years’ time, as the party’s presidential nominee looks for much-needed support among women and Hispanics in the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
FILE In this Tuesday, June 24, 2014 file photograph, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering in Trenton, N.J., after he signed into law a bill that would extend the cap on arbitration awards to New Jersey's police and firefighters. The New Jersey state Senate has confirmed the two men Christie wants to add to the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Senate confirmed John Degnan and George Laufenberg for the jobs just hours after both were advanced by the Senate judiciary committee following hearings. (AP Photo/Mel Evans,file)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question as he campaigns with New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein, Friday, June 20, 2014 in Bedford,N.H. Havenstein faces Andrew Hemingway in the Sept. 9 primary to take on incumbent Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan in the November general election. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie takes questions during a visit to Hoogasian Flowers Friday, June 13, 2014, in San Francisco. Christie is in San Francisco as part of a national tour, headlining a high-dollar fundraiser in the liberal stronghold and supporting the California GOP's long-shot nominee for governor. Christie visited the local flower business with California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari before going to a luncheon fundraiser. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, chats with former New York Jets football player Curtis Martin at a reception before the 73rd Annual Father of the Year Awards benefit luncheon, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in New York. They are both honorees at the event. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
File-This Jan. 23, 2014, file photo shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressing a gathering at the Dudley Family School in Camden, N.J. Lawyers for a state legislative panel investigating a political payback scandal say a former aide to Gov. Christie has shown no valid legal reasons for refusing to comply with a subpoena. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves after a visit City Hall Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, in Fort Lee, N.J. Christie traveled to Fort Lee to apologize in person to Mayor Mark Sokolich. Moving quickly to contain a widening political scandal, Gov. Chris Christie fired one of his top aides Thursday and apologized repeatedly for the "abject stupidity" of his staff, insisting he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams to get even with a Democratic mayor. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, laughs with Newark Mayor and senate candidate Cory Booker in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Newark charter schools. A new poll shows the U.S. Senate race between Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan is tightening as Lonegan accuses Booker of being more interested in Hollywood than New Jersey. Christie endorsed Lonegan but is close with Booker. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has his picture taken by student Anika DeBerry, as students and officials gathered at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, during ground breaking ceremonies on an addition to its College of Engineering building. The new building will be a three-story, 90,500-square-foot structure. Its projected cost is $71 million, and construction is expected to be completed during the 2016-17 school year. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
In this Sept. 12, 2013 photo provided by the Office of the Governor of New Jersey, Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, right, stands with Gov. Chris Christie, left, during a tour of the Seaside Heights, N.J. boardwalk after it was hit by a massive fire. Christie fired Kelly Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, and apologized over and over for his staff's "stupid" behavior, insisting during a nearly two-hour news conference that he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams as part of a political vendetta against a Democratic mayor. (AP Photo/Office of Gov. Chris Christie, Tim Larsen)
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By JILL COLVIN

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is heading to Mexico on Wednesday, officially on a trade mission for his state. But he also is a potential 2016 presidential candidate, with a lot of swagger but little foreign policy experience.

So with his state exporting $2 billion worth of goods to Mexico, and tens of thousands of New Jersey jobs relying on the relationship, Christie becomes the latest potential presidential contender to cross the border on official business and in pursuit of international expertise and credibility.

"If you're a national leader of the party and you go abroad and you meet other foreign leaders, you learn," Christie, who also is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, told reporters. "And that'll make you a better leader whether you run for anything else or whether you just continue to try to be an influential governor in our country regarding the national debates that come up."

Christie is just one of the Republicans trying to beef up his foreign policy credentials for a possible general election matchup against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former secretary of state. The nation's role in international affairs is likely to be a key issue in the 2016 contest regardless of the candidates. After consecutive elections focused largely on the American economy, growing unrest across the Middle East and Europe has thrust foreign affairs into the forefront.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul recently returned from Guatemala, where he performed eye surgeries with news cameras in tow. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum just came back from Israel; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is there now. Two days after Christie returns from Mexico, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to head to China and Japan.

They are all following paths out of the country well-worn by presidential contenders with little foreign policy experience.

"Every governor who wants to be president has to go on an international trade mission to show their foreign policy bona fides," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The trips, campaign veterans say, give potential candidates the chance to look presidential as they stand side-by-side with world leaders. On his first day in Mexico, Christie meets with President Enrique Pena Nieto.

For Christie, the trip also offers him a chance to build credibility with increasingly influential Latino voters. But more broadly, international experience could be critical in the 2016 presidential cycle, as the U.S. confronts conflicts in Israel, Syria, Ukraine and Russia. Clinton, who was secretary of state for four years, would have a substantial head start on foreign policy experience over any Republican now considering a presidential bid. She's dealt with foreign leaders for years; now it's Christie's turn.

"It begins to help the American people understand, 'Hey this person has the experience and the gravitas to be commander in chief,'" said Lanhee Chen, the top policy adviser to 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Christie, who like many governors has limited experience with foreign leaders, has a particular challenge when it comes to the delicate art of dealing with the nation's partners. He rose to national prominence as a brash straight-talker happy to publicly shout down New Jersey residents he disagreed with. On the international stage, he'll have to show he has the patience and self-control to deal with complicated, high-stakes conflicts.

His inexperience was on display during an appearance with Jewish donors this spring when he referred to Israel's West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories." He later apologized after drawing criticism from Israel's supporters in the U.S. who don't consider the region to be occupied.

Christie's trip this week is his second abroad as governor, after visiting Israel in 2012.

He will be joined by New Jersey business leaders for the three-day trip, which features sit-downs with Pena Nieto and other officials, meals and meetings with Mexican business leaders and a sojourn to Puebla, where he's scheduled to spend some time visiting a park and local school. There, he'll have the opportunity to show off his greatest political asset: his ability to interact with people.

Christie will be trailed step-by-step by the news media. He has no plans to try to speak Spanish while there, and he'll be traveling with a translator.

"I never have been really good at foreign languages. I tried in high school, I tried in college and just never had an aptitude for it," Christie told reporters before departing. "I think the worst thing in the world is when politicians try to fake it. You know, they've got a few things written in a foreign language in front of them, they say it and they sound stupid and everybody knows they don't really know what they're talking about it. And I'm not going to do that."

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