- Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
- Susan Segal, President and CEO, AS/COA
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, interviewed by AS/COA’s Susan Segal at the 45th Washington Conference on the Americas, expounded on his recent trips to Canada and Mexico, as well as U.S. policy in the region. Christie stated that our North American neighbors must be a “first thought, not an afterthought,” and described his trips as building up those partnerships for the state of New Jersey. Since the state’s economy is dependent on trade, the visits served as a “strong signal to people that we need to spend much more time on the hemisphere.”
In Mexico, Christie met with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, announcing a partnership with ConnectAmericas.com, a social media platform designed to connect businesses throughout the Western Hemisphere. Christie also inked a higher education agreement with the Mexican city of Puebla, citing New Jersey’s status as a state with high levels of immigration, including from that city.
Christie stated that his vision for North America was for it to become the number one place for worldwide investment, taking advantage of an ongoing energy renaissance, which improves the region’s geopolitical standing in the world at the same time that all three countries share economic, political, and cultural values. “If you look at any other neighborhood in the world, you don’t have that combination of positive factors,” said Christie.
As governor of New Jersey, Christie remarked that the international nature of the state’s residents imply that the governor should be globally minded. He noted that the state is the most ethnically diverse one in the United States, so that tolerance of different cultures, traditions, and values is of paramount importance. Christie spoke to the trials of New Jersey’s immigrants, who come to the United States to work, not vote. However, Christie stated: “We need to have borders that respect our sovereignty.”
Turning to national policy, Christie said that he is opposed to the new U.S. rapprochement with Cuba, describing the Castro government as a “dictatorial family regime that denies freedoms to their people and is a sponsor of terrorism.” He spoke of the Cuban government’s asylum of Assata Shakur, who was convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. Stating that he is not opposed on principle to welcoming Cuba back into the “family of civilized nations,” there is still a ways to go for that to happen.
Christie also said that he views the failure of the United States to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is “not the act of a friend,” given difficult political decisions made by Canada on the matter.
Finally, Christie spoke on the need to spend time strengthening hemispheric relationships, saying, “We shouldn’t be in the business of calling someone just when we need something.” For this shift to occur, more leaders should talk about the importance of engagement in the region, he noted.