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Minnesota government and business leaders this week set off on a northern European trade mission aimed at boosting exports from the state and netting more investments into Minnesota.
More than 50 Minnesota representatives spent the week in London and Helsinki meeting with federal officials and business leaders there and building new connections around health and medical technology, environmental technology, agriculture and higher education.
Gov. Tim Walz and state agency heads were among the first, if not the first, to resume in-person trade talks with the two countries after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many trade and business summits into virtual settings. And the face-to-face interactions had a profound impact locally, Walz said.
“Incredibly positive reception,” Walz told reporters during a teleconference from Helsinki on Wednesday. “I think that reputation of Minnesota as that problem-solving, innovative state is making a difference.”
The Minnesota delegation toured the new Mayo Clinic Healthcare site in London, discussed policies that could slow climate change with energy officials and started conversations around new opportunities for U.K. investors to work with Minnesota companies during their three-day stay in London. The United States and the United Kingdom have yet to formalize a trade deal post-Brexit but state officials said they were hopeful that they’d laid good groundwork.
And they committed to putting pressure on the state’s congressional delegation and others in Washington to free up trade between the two countries.
“It’s really provided a good opportunity for us to help set the stage for a good trade agreement with the U.K.,” Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said.
The United Kingdom was the eighth-largest exporter of Minnesota goods in 2020, and 70 U.K. businesses operate locations in Minnesota. Meanwhile, 60 Minnesota companies operate businesses in the U.K. Finland is not as high on the state’s export list but Minnesota exported $19 million to the country last year.
“To show up here with 60 Minnesota businesses is a huge signal to the market that we’re open for business,” Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said. “We’re getting a lot of openness and excitement.”
The Minnesota delegation was set to meet with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and companies with Minnesota ties on Wednesday, before wrapping up the visit with additional networking talks on Thursday. The group is scheduled to travel back to Minnesota on Friday.
At home, the state tracked a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths that jumped to the highest in the nation. Health department officials said they would open up booster doses of vaccines to curb the latest wave later this week.
In addition to Walz, first lady Gwen Walz and commissioners Grove and Petersen, dozens of business, education and health leaders joined the trade mission. Here is a list of those in the Minnesota delegation:
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