BOSTON (AP) — As he nears the end of his second and final term, Gov. Deval Patrick's wanderlust has kicked into high gear.
In the past 18 months, Patrick has embarked on a whirlwind tour of the globe, stopping in such far-flung places as Colombia, Ireland, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Panama, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The slew of trips marks the most active overseas travel period of Patrick's nearly eight years in office, according to an Associated Press review of the governor's official schedules by the Associated Press. During his first four-year term, Patrick made just one trade mission to China.
The governor says the trade missions have attracted capital to the state and raised Massachusetts' profile in an increasingly global economy.
"It's opening doors for business leaders to new markets, and they've made the most of it. We see it in job creation here. We see it in increased sales as well," Patrick told the AP last week.
The trips have also made it easier for Massachusetts businesses to find markets and clients in other parts of the world, he said.
The trade missions have also drawn criticism.
When Patrick embarked on a trip to Panama and Mexico in March, some Republican lawmakers faulted him for leaving Massachusetts amid heightened scrutiny of the Department of Children and Families after social workers lost track of a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy, who was later found dead.
And when Patrick picked China for his first trade mission in 2007, he found himself under pressure from human rights activists, Tibetan activists and even some fellow Democratic lawmakers, who urged him to stand up for the principles of freedom and human rights. Patrick said he politely raised the issues during a luncheon with a senior Chinese foreign ministry official.
Patrick's entourage on the trips typically includes business leaders and cabinet secretaries. He's pointed to a series of deals that he said are the direct result of the trips.
Traveling to China, for example, resulted in agreements signed between life science and clean energy groups in Massachusetts and China, a new exchange opportunity for the University of Massachusetts and a nonstop air service from Boston to Beijing, according to Patrick.