NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — As he considers a White House run, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's third trip abroad in recent months provides an opportunity to build his foreign policy resume and test whether he has the temperament for the world stage.
Officially, the trip to London that begins Sunday — and includes a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron — is a trade mission to strengthen ties with the United Kingdom, the state's third-largest foreign trading partner, with $7 billion in goods exchanged each year.
"One of the main objectives of this trip is to focus on the opportunities that exist between the United Kingdom and New Jersey and our country as a whole," Christie told reporters in a conference call before departing.
With the 2016 election looming, Christie has been studying up on foreign policy, learning from some of the most respected experts in the Republican Party. Like other governors, he has little day-to-day experience in foreign matters and has so far been reluctant to discuss his views on specific threats or share his own policy ideas, beyond criticizing those of President Barack Obama.
In September, Christie traveled to Mexico and in December to Canada, where he delivered speeches about North American trade and the benefits of domestic energy production. Such trips have given Christie the chance to appear with foreign leaders and begin to sketch out his foreign policy priorities, including a focus on building ties across North America.
Christie's potential presidential rivals also are logging international frequent flier miles, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who recently returned from a 10-day European economic development mission. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is planning a trip to Britain a week after Christie's.
"A lot of foreign policy is the personal relationship between leaders, and to the extent that he's able to help these foreign leaders understand who he is and what makes him tick, I think that's a positive thing," said Lanhee Chen, a policy director for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign.
While famous for his brash Jersey style, Christie has been careful on his previous trips abroad to take a more measured, deferential tone, stressing that he was there to listen and learn. The trips appear designed to showcase Christie's personal side, with lots of opportunities for casual interaction beyond closed-door meetings with dignitaries.
Christie will begin his three-day U.K. trip watching a different kind of football — soccer — when he attends an Arsenal Football Club game on Sunday against Aston Villa. His wife, Mary Pat, is joining him on the outing.
Other stops on the governor's itinerary include:
—Meetings in Cambridge with representatives from the life sciences and pharmaceutical fields and a tour of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca's research and development arm. He'll return to London to meet with U.S. Ambassador Matthew Barzun, Cameron and attend a dinner with some members of the prime ministers' Cabinet.
—A tour of Hope House, an addiction treatment center for women supported by the royal family. The visit is a gesture of thanks to Prince Harry, who spent a day touring areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy during a 2013 visit, officials said.
—A rehearsal of William Shakespeare's "Henry V" and a conversation with Rutgers University students studying classical acting abroad.