MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker talked up Wisconsin’s record $23.4 billion worth of exports Thursday, later telling reporters that he expects to meet with newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a six-day private trip to that country beginning Saturday.
Walker, a likely Republican presidential contender, gave a brief talk before the Wisconsin International Trade Conference in Milwaukee on Thursday, praising the crowd for helping create the highest level of state exports ever recorded.
Speaking with reporters after the talk, Walker also said he planned to continue to push some of his major budget initiatives, including a boost in the tax credit for manufacturing and agriculture that is now expected to cost an additional $265 million over the next two years than originally projected.
“I’d hate to see us slow down something that I think has had a major impact in terms of helping create jobs, create opportunities and create investments,” he said.
Walker highlighted his foreign policy and business experience during Thursday’s talk, including recent trips to Germany and the United Kingdom and a planned trip to Canada.
“There’s great opportunities for us all around the world,” Walker told the crowd.
Walker’s Our American Revival group on Thursday provided details of his Israel tour, which will be paid for by OAR and the Republican Jewish Coalition. Walker said he will not take political supporters but instead will bring staff members and informal advisers on the trip, which he described as “educational.”
According to OAR, Walker plans to meet with high-level leaders, which he said he expects will include Netanyahu.
In addition, the governor will take a helicopter tour of historical and strategically significant sites, visit religious sites and speak with Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs. He will leave directly from the Freedom Summit in South Carolina, a political event, to Israel.
The governor also told attendees at Thursday’s international trade conference that he endorses the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact currently being debated in Congress.
TPP is a rare point of agreement between Walker and Democratic President Barack Obama. Some Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, have questioned whether the deal would lead to lower wages and more lax environmental standards in the U.S., among other concerns.
According to the Obama administration, more than half of Wisconsin’s exports are sold to the TPP-member countries, which include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
“Free and open trade is a good thing,” Walker said. “It’s good for jobs, it’s good for wages, it’s good for Wisconsin, and it’s good for America.”
State Journal reporter Matthew DeFour contributed to this report.