SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held trade talks with South Korean officials in Seoul on Wednesday, on the second leg of his four-nation trip, as the possible rival to Donald Trump seeks to build his diplomatic profile ahead of a widely anticipated presidential campaign launch.

Leading a trade mission from Florida, DeSantis met with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and expressed hopes to create more jobs by facilitating South Korean trade and investment in his state, according to Han’s office. Han, Seoul’s No. 2 official behind President Yoon Suk Yeol, called for stronger cooperation in industries such as space and aviation, which he described as Florida’s “strengths.”

DeSantis earlier on Wednesday met with Kim Dong-yeon, the governor of South Korea’s largest Gyeonggi province, to discuss exploring partnerships in industries such as biotechnology and solar power generation, Kim’s office said.

According to DeSantis’ office, merchandise trade between Florida and South Korea exceeds $1.3 billion, making Florida the country’s 7th largest bilateral trade partner in the Asia and Middle East region.

DeSantis is considered the biggest challenger to former President Trump for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential race. He is expected to announce his candidacy sometime next month.

DeSantis, who was accompanied by state officials and his wife, Casey DeSantis, began his multi-country trip in Japan, where he met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday and exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry. Following South Korea, DeSantis will travel to Israel and Britain.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox