- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker heads to Europe this week on a trade mission featuring private meetings with business and government representatives in Germany, France and Spain, as he ramps up for a likely bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

The most high-profile event on Walker’s itinerary comes Tuesday when he’s slated to deliver a 15-minute speech titled “Opportunities for bilateral trade and investment” at the Hannover Messe trade show in Germany. That is the world’s largest industrial fair, Walker’s office said in the documents detailing the trip.

Walker’s only other event that’s open to reporters is a meeting with representatives from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases to discuss possible collaborations on fighting such deadly ailments as ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Richard Moss of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is also participating.

Walker’s itinerary does not include any meetings with the leaders of the three countries he is visiting, but he also did not announce in advance his get-together with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street during a February trade mission.

That trip to Great Britain, which was viewed as a way for Walker to bolster his foreign policy resume, cost taxpayers just over $138,000, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced Thursday. That was $6,000 less than the agency expected.

No staff from Walker’s political committee is traveling with him on the weeklong trade mission beginning Friday. The trip was organized by WEDC and had been in the works since November, when Walker was re-elected to a second term, his office said.

Walker is ending his participation in the trade mission early so he can attend a political event in New Hampshire on April 17 and April 18 with other likely Republican presidential candidates.

Walker was in Nashville on Thursday and Friday to attend the National Rifle Association annual meeting and talk with Tennessee lawmakers.

Unlike the official taxpayer-funded trade missions, Walker’s political arm Our American Revival plans to pay for a mid-May trip to Israel. That will be Walker’s first trip to that country.

Walker in 2013 also traveled to China and attended the Japan-Midwestern Conference.

Walker drew criticism during his London trip for refusing to answer questions about foreign policy following a speech at an international affairs think tank, as well as not saying whether he believed in evolution.

Walker said in a statement that the goal of the upcoming European trip is to “provide state companies with opportunities to establish and develop new partnerships overseas.”

Wisconsin’s exports are up 18.3 percent, and agricultural exports have increased 50 percent, since Walker took office in 2011.

The 22-member delegation attending the upcoming trade mission includes executives from seven Wisconsin companies, including OEM Fabricators of Woodville, Trans International of Menomonee Falls and Solaris of West Allis. Jim Paetsch, vice president of corporate expansion for the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development organization, along with Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council, are also attending.

Highlights of the trip include a meeting with Stephan Weil, prime minister for the German state of Lower Saxony, and participation in a business round table discussion in Paris.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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