BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley could change plans to lead a 45-member group on a South American trade mission if a special legislative session runs longer than the minimum five days, a spokesman said Monday.

Riley and the delegation of educators and business representatives are scheduled to leave for Argentina and Chile this weekend, spokesman Jeff Emerson said.

The governor will decide whether he can still participate in the trip after the special session starts Tuesday. He called the session last week after legislators failed to pass an education budget.

Emerson said Riley believes legislators won’t need longer than the minimum five days required to pass a bill.

The trip would be Riley’s first trade mission to the two South American countries.

During the trip, Riley is scheduled to meet with high-ranking government officials, and Alabama companies will seek partners to gain a foothold in the local market. The trade mission will follow a similar format to a trip by state officials to China last month.

“Both Chile and Argentina value personal relationships in doing business,” Hilda Lockhart, director of the Alabama Development Office’s International Trade Division, told the Birmingham News in a Monday story.

“In fact, it seems you have to develop the personal side of the relationship before actually developing the business side,” she said.

In Chile, exports from the United States have risen exponentially since the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 2004. Under the agreement, 90 percent of U.S. goods now enter Chile duty-free, and all remaining tariffs will be phased out by 2015, according to the commerce department.

Alabama exports to Chile have jumped 141 percent over the past two years, reaching $67.4 million last year, according to the Alabama Development Office. The value of state goods shipped to Argentina topped $83 million last year, a 57 percent rise since 2005.

Top exports to both countries include vehicles, organic chemicals and industrial machinery.

A contingent of professors from Tuskegee and Auburn universities also will travel with the group, meeting their counterparts at various institutions and visiting manufacturing plants in a program designed to help strengthen international business curricula and trade ties for local businesses.

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