- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will travel to London early next month for a trade mission that will double as another opportunity to bolster his foreign policy credentials ahead of a potential run for president.

The three-day trip to England, beginning February 1, will be the Republican’s third foreign trip in recent months and his first outside of North America during his second term. While in the United Kingdom, Christie is slated to meet with business leaders, dignitaries and government officials, his office said.

“This is an opportunity to strengthen economic and cultural ties between the United Kingdom and New Jersey while pursuing real opportunities in the life sciences and finance sectors,” Christie’s communications chief Maria Comella said in a statement. “As with all of his previous trips, this is a way for Gov. Christie to not just help grow New Jersey, but really listen and learn.”

The full schedule for Christie’s trip, including whether he will meet with Prime Minister David Cameron, is still being finalized, but he will not meet with the Queen or Prince Harry, who traveled to New Jersey and toured two shore communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2013.

Comella said the trip will focus on business connections between New Jersey and the United Kingdom, especially in the areas of finance and life sciences. The trip will likely include a series of meetings with London-based CEOs, as well as a potential visit to Cambridge, home of the world-famous university. Christie may attend a soccer match during his trip.

A governor with little foreign-policy experience, Christie has spent recent months studying foreign affairs in late-night prep sessions. He also traveled to Mexico in September and Canada in December, where he stressed the benefits of deepening ties with America’s North American neighbors and domestic energy production.

His trip to Britain suggests Christie is broadening his focus and gives him another chance to build relationships with world leaders and gain insight into foreign issues.

“I think it is smart for any governor who is potentially seeking the Republican nomination to have made a few trips overseas to familiar themselves with our allies and to start to get a grounding in foreign policy,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committeeman from New Hampshire and former senior adviser to John McCain, who described the London trip as a natural next step for Christie after crossing this country’s northern and southern borders.

New Jersey exported $2.2 billion worth of goods to the United Kingdom in 2013, according to the office of Danny Lopez, the British Consul General in New York, who has been helping to plan the trip.

Also Tuesday, former Christie aide Matt Mowers confirmed he plans to resign his post as executive director of the New Hampshire Republican party at the end of the month. Mowers is considered a likely candidate to join a Christie campaign in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary.

Like other recent Christie travel, the U.K. trip is being sponsored by Choose New Jersey, a state economic development group. Christie’s office has yet to disclose how much the group paid for his travel to Mexico and Canada, or his taxpayer-funded security expenses on those trips. Christie also traveled to Israel during his first term.

Christie is among the many potential 2016 contenders spending time overseas at this nascent stage of the campaign. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was wrapping up a 10-day economic development mission to Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, a likely candidate in 2016, is heading to Canada this week.

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