Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Friday he is planning a trade mission to Brazil, looking to a growing market for the state's exporters.
The Republican governor said the trip is tentatively planned for December.
It would be the seventh major trade mission for Pawlenty, who has led state delegations to Canada, China, the Czech Republic, India, Israel and Poland. He has also visited Minnesota National Guard troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Pawlenty has been traveling on his own since June to speak about the future of Republican Party, including stops in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The two-term governor has ruled out a third term and is considered a potential GOP presidential candidate for 2012.
Trade missions are one of the few opportunities governors get to wade into foreign affairs. Minnesota's exports to Brazil jumped nearly 29 percent from 2007 to 2008, adding up to $286 million. That's a sliver of the total $17 billion in Minnesota's annual exports. Even so, Brazil ranks as the state's 15th largest export market.
Demand for Minnesota's goods there - particularly specialized machinery, centrifuges, filters and pumps - is outpacing demand in the Central and South America as a whole, the fastest-growing market for Minnesota exporters.
"It's a significant trading partner and increasing in importance. Of course one of the bright spots in Minnesota's economy is the ability to export," Pawlenty said after a deployment ceremony near the state Capitol for National Guard troops bound for Afghanistan.
Pawlenty said his costs will be covered by funds left over from previous trade trips. He said a formal announcement will come from the Minnesota Trade Office when the details firm up.