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By Matt Murphy

State House News Service

BOSTON — Brazil. Germany. Japan.

These countries have more in common than their collective hopes for this summer’s World Cup.

They’re also on the list of destinations the would-be next governor of Massachusetts might like to visit to drum up jobs back home and in foreign investment.

Gov. Deval Patrick returned to Massachusetts on Thursday from a nearly two-week trade trip to the Middle East, and the idea of the governor traveling overseas as an international ambassador remains popular among the contenders this year for governor.

Though some put caveats on their foreign travel, eight of the nine major Democrat, Republican and independent candidates in the race told the News Service they would be at least somewhat interested in personally pursuing jobs abroad, with the lone exception being Republican Mark Fisher. Independent Evan Falchuk also expressed hesitation about the value of such trade missions.

Patrick, who is scheduled to return home from Dubai after visiting Israel and the United Arab Emirates over the past 10 days, has defended his international travel as a valuable tool for building business relationships in the face of some criticism that he is eschewing problems at home to jet around the world.

His travel itinerary, which picked up considerably after being elected to a second term, has brought Patrick and Bay State officials and business leaders to 13 countries over the past eight years. Though measuring the success or failure of these trips can be difficult to quantify, the administration argues that they have helped to lure companies from Israel and elsewhere to locate in Massachusetts, forged research partnerships and created a market for new direct flights to foreign locales out of Logan Airport that will bring tourists and corporate visitors to Boston.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, in a statement from her spokeswoman, said that while she believed it is important to strengthen global relationships and compete on the “international playing field,” it would be “premature to state whether and where we should focus our international efforts in the future.”

“Any decisions on taking part in trade missions will depend on economic development opportunities that exist at the time and potential for job growth back home,” said Coakley spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin.

But earlier this week at a Boston Globe opinion section debate, Coakley picked Israel as her most likely landing spot.

“I think the similarity of our populations and demographics and the knowledge-based economy and investment in people and innovation would make them good partners,” Coakley said.

Dr. Donald Berwick, a former Obama administration health official, also selected Israel and the Middle East, where Patrick has traveled twice now. “The potential there is enormous,” Berwick said.

Treasurer Steve Grossman said trade missions can help boost exports, encourage foreign investment in industries like advanced manufacturing and create jobs.

“I will pursue a progressive agenda to enhance our economic competitiveness, streamline permitting and regulation, and encourage public-private partnerships as well as periodically travel to the most promising markets around the world. Any use of state resources must require a clearly defined set of performance metrics to fully protect taxpayer dollars,” Grossman said in a statement to the News Service.

But he, too, elaborated further during their debate this week, selecting Germany as his most likely first destination, noting how a German manufacturer recently brought 150 jobs to Chicopee.

Former state and federal homeland security adviser Juliette Kayyem said over the course of her life and career she has visited almost every state in the country and numerous foreign countries.

“I am going to fight to create an environment of innovation and access so that companies and start-ups from around the world come here and create Massachusetts jobs,” Kayyem said.

Kayyem said she would go to Brazil, where Patrick has already visited once, because of its growing economy, the numbers of Brazilian immigrants living in Massachusetts and the strong trade relationship that already exists between Massachusetts and Brazil.

Joseph Avellone, a Wellesley biopharmaceutical executive, said he “would not hesitate” to travel domestically or abroad to create jobs, but said travel must be balanced with other demands of the job and have a “specific purpose.”

“I am the only candidate in this race that has competed in the global economy. I understand that to prepare Massachusetts for a global economy, international travel may at times be required. These trips should be specific in their purpose and executed in a cost-effective manner,” Avellone said.

Avellone said the easy choice for his first trade mission would be to Japan.

“Japan doesn’t innovate that well, but we do and they would like to bring a lot more of what they do here so they can take advantage of our innovations economy. We should embrace that,” he said.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker took a swipe at Patrick for being on a trade mission last week when an important independent review of the Department of Children and Families was released, and said he would have canceled the trip. But he also said, “My first priority will always be making sure state government is working for the people of Massachusetts. As governor, I fully expect to travel abroad for the purpose of helping grow the commonwealth’s economy by opening new markets.”

Baker’s Republican opponent, Mark Fisher, said in an email he would personally pay for any trips he takes outside Massachusetts, and that the only traveling he planned to do would be to out-of-state conferences with other governors where he could “trade information with other state officials about best practices that protect its citizens and their taxpayer dollars.”

Independent venture capitalist Jeff McCormick said, “Economic development trips and trade missions can be helpful in stimulating our state’s economy and, when appropriate, I will institute them.”

McCormick also said he would have to be convinced of the potential for economic development before traveling, and would limit the size of the delegation traveling with taxpayer money and avoid “lavish accommodations.”

Falchuk, a health and medical consultant, said that in his business career he has found traveling around the world to meet with clients to be “invaluable,” but said as governor he does not intend to spend “significant time” outside Massachusetts.

“Trips with no clear and direct business purpose can appear to be — and often are — nothing more than junkets. It is worthwhile to promote Massachusetts and Massachusetts businesses abroad, but it is not clear that visits by a governor materially improve the prospects of Massachusetts business,” Falchuk said in a statement. “Unless this is the case, the best way to improve Massachusetts businesses and to encourage foreign businesses to move to Massachusetts is to ensure that the business environment in Massachusetts is as good as can be — in particular, by reducing the skyrocketing cost of living in our state.”

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