The link between Israel and Texas is as strong as ever, and I was honored to be in the Holy Land recently to witness critical new milestones in the deepening of our relationship.
Previous visits to Israel - a significant trading partner of our state - helped spur the creation of the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, an organization based in Houston that facilitates further commerce between Texas and Israeli businesses.
This trip helped build upon those existing economic ties, and brought us closer together culturally as we announced plans for a Texas A&M international branch campus in Nazareth. The goal for this campus is admittedly lofty: To be a means to preserve peace and build understanding between cultures. We want to see students and instructors from a diverse array of nationalities, faiths and backgrounds within its classrooms, with each student learning more about the world and the bright possibilities that lie ahead for all of us.
Again, that's a tall order. But after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and people throughout the region about their vision, it's easy to see why these goals are achievable. I'm proud that Texas will play a part in it.
Additionally, trips like this one - which included a stop in London, as well - underscore our state's growing status as a global trade power. Many people aren't aware that Texas is the United States' top exporter. Fewer still know we've held that title for 11 years running.
In 2012, Texas exported nearly $265 billion in goods and services. That amount is larger than the entire GDP of countries like Chile, Nigeria, the Philippines and Portugal.
We've established ourselves as a global trade leader. And with the growing investment in Texas from worldwide innovators like Samsung, Toyota and Apple, that's certainly not going to change anytime soon.
While in Israel, I also met with Israeli Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin; Minister of Energy and Water Silvan Shalom; Minister of Finance Yair Lapid; Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett; Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon; as well as executives from a variety of Israeli industries.
While in the United Kingdom, I was honored to meet with officials such as Hugh Michael Robertson, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Edward Davey, Secretary of the State for Energy and Climate; and key leaders from the financial industry.
Among the themes that emerged consistently throughout these meetings were energy and water issues that countries around the world are facing - and they're certainly issues we're used to dealing with in Texas.
Energy has always played a key role in our economy. Not just oil and gas, but alternative or renewable sources, like wind and solar.
In terms of water, Israel and Texas share many of the same challenges. We both have an acute need to utilize the latest technology and strategies to make the most of the water supplies we have.
Israel provides an excellent example of how to maximize water supplies. The country already has a water reuse rate of more than 80 percent, with goals to push that past 90 percent in the near future. With voter approval next week, we'll have an opportunity to fund water projects in Texas for the next 50 years, many of them projects that will help us increase the reuse and recycling of our existing supplies. This is projected to push our water reuse to more than 10 percent.
Throughout the trip, I was reminded that the countries that are going to succeed in the future are the ones that embrace the concept of competition, the ones that understand the value of economic freedom, and the ones that make the most of the resources at their disposal. In that way, it's similar to what I've discussed on the state level in the United States. The states that truly "get it" about the importance of job creation are the ones that will prosper.
As I said consistently, the freedom to excel and make the most of our opportunities is what made the United States great, and embracing that has made Texas our nation's economic powerhouse over the past decade.
I'm always excited to tell that story to employers everywhere.