- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday that the U.S. presidential race is weighing heavily on the minds of executives that he met with on a recently concluded trade mission to Asia.

Haslam told reporters in a conference that he and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd met with about 250 business leaders during the trip to South Korea, China and Japan.

“In every country, we got asked about the presidential election pretty frequently,” Haslam said. “There is a high degree of concern in Asia about how the U.S. sees its role in the world going forward.

“I’d say there was a high degree of anxiety,” he said.

The governor said those concerns include questions about the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that has been criticized by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Haslam has not yet said whether he will support Donald Trump, who became the presumptive nominee while the governor was on the trip. But he said he tried to make the case that partisan arguments are fleeting in the grand scheme of the U.S. economy.

“The United States has been a great country in terms of a place for investment for a long time. I don’t see that changing,” Haslam said. “Obviously, we have a political season in the United States, and there’s always different winds that blow on that.”

“At the end of the day, I still think this will be a great country for you to invest in,” Haslam said he told the business leaders.

Haslam said trade agreements have helped Tennessee’s ability to export goods around the world.

“Our exports from Tennessee - whether they be agricultural or manufacturing products - tend to be 30 to 40 percent higher to those counties that we have trade agreements with,” he said.

Boyd said most of the discussions about U.S. politics came after the main presentations about the state’s pitch for foreign investment.

“If you’re going to invest a half a billion dollars in the United States, it’s going to transcend one particular political campaign,” Boyd said. “So while it’s definitely a concern there, I don’t think it is going to weigh too negatively on the decisions that some of these people are making today on Tennessee.”

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