Carwyn Jones arrives in San Francisco for trade visit

Carwyn Jones defends his overseas trips as selling Wales to the world

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First Minister Carwyn Jones says he hopes to open doors for Welsh businesses during a four-day trade mission to San Francisco.

Representatives of 18 IT, science and creative businesses arrived in California with him on Monday.

Mr Jones will meet political leaders and Silicon Valley businesses.

It is the latest in a series of overseas trips, which have prompted political opponents to call for proof of how they benefit the Welsh economy.

Speaking to the BBC recently, Mr Jones said an announcement would be made while he was in San Francisco "that will show that we are making progress", but he declined to give further details.

Mr Jones has previously spoken about the need for the Welsh government to have staff based in important foreign markets, including the west coast of America.

The Conservatives have called for reassurances that trade missions "deliver real investment for Wales and aren't just a vanity project to promote his own ego".

'Vitally important'

Mr Jones accused the Tories of "petty politics", saying it was essential to "go out there and sell yourself to the world".

Start Quote

This is an opportunity to learn from this vibrant market and to seek out opportunities for Wales and Welsh companies”

End Quote Carwyn Jones First Minister

He has recently been to Turkey and Ireland. In March he will be in New York and in June he will go to Japan.

During the four-day visit to San Francisco, the first minister will promote Wales as a place to do business when he meets company bosses and political leaders in the city and the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley.

He will also have briefings from UK officials based in California.

"This is an opportunity to learn from this vibrant market and to seek out opportunities for Wales and Welsh companies," said Mr Jones.

"It is vitally important in my role as first minister that I seek to build relationships that will open doors for Welsh business.

"A number of Welsh businesses are here with me for this unique opportunity to explore the potential for Welsh businesses to tap into this market and explore investment opportunities."

He added: "International trade is vitally important for the Welsh economy and Welsh government overseas missions are tailored to help businesses make the most of the all the opportunities presented."

'High profile'

The value of Welsh exports to north America has improved over the last three years.

Wales exported £915m to north America in the third quarter of 2012, the most recent period for which figures are available. But that is down from more than £1bn for the same period in 2011.

One of the companies travelling with Mr Jones, Cardiff-based Rantmedia, makes apps for smartphones and tablets.

Its downloads were boosted recently after one of its apps was endorsed by Apple.

Rantmedia managing director Anton Faulconbridge said: "We aim to make the most of this publicity and build on our high profile during our visit to San Francisco where we have a number of interviews lined up with technology news outlets, gaming press and bloggers."

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