Murphy looking to expand trade, relations with Germany and Israel

While a global trade war is a key focus at the federal level, New Jersey’s governor has his own trade agenda planned for this fall.

Gov. Phil Murphy is planning trips to Germany and Israel to help bolster relationships with two key innovation economies.

His focus on Germany and Israel can be considered low-hanging fruit. Israel has long had a strong relationship with New Jersey, and the governor is a former U.S. ambassador to Germany.

But Murphy, in a recent phone interview with ROI-NJ, said there’s still more potential.

“Germany is the largest economy in Europe,” he said. “I’ve lived there twice in my life; I literally know the players. Is it meaningfully better to go there than to France, which is the second-largest economy? No. But it’s an obvious one for me.

“And the Israel-New Jersey relationship is good, but it could be a lot better in commerce and higher education. So. it’s a good base to start from, but there is no reason why we can’t deepen it meaningfully.”

There are other countries that are deemed greater innovation economies.

According to the annual Global Innovation Index, Switzerland has ranked first in the world since 2011 for its leadership in innovation. In 2018, Germany ranked ninth.

But the governor believes the existing Israel relationship and the large economy of Germany make them worthwhile to pay attention to.

“Those aren’t the only two countries in the world to consider,” he said. “Germany dwarfs the Swiss economy. Switzerland is a good place to go, no doubts about it — high engineering, high value-added economy.

“Germany is virtually the same type of economy, but it’s much bigger. In a world of limited days, you can hit more folks in Germany. So, I’m really optimistic.”

A good example of existing investments from Germany in New Jersey are BASF and Bayer.

“Israel, the relationship, culturally, religious and historically, otherwise is among the strongest we would have in our state with any country in the world, but it could be deeper on the commercial economic side,” he said.

Murphy is, however, making sure to try and flag the attention of other countries to engage with New Jersey.

He said he has already met with several European consulates general, and he said he is planning to have a similar meeting with a group of Latin American consulates general this fall.

Murphy said he wants the meetings to be “a regular reality.”

Typically, countries look first at New York City, and Murphy wants to open the door to have conversations about the greater New York region.

“We want to get these folks, get their eyes open to what’s going on in our state. “

For all his talk about Germany and Israel, the governor did say some countries do not make a lot of sense for New Jersey despite their power in the global economy.

For instance, Murphy agrees with the national security premise of the U.S.-China dispute, saying there’s a huge technology transfer risk with China.

“People don’t talk about it as explicitly as they should, but it’s a fact,” he said. “I hope that we can peacefully coexist economically with China.”