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Patrick assesses Asia trade mission

Governor Deval Patrick said that doing business in “relationship-centric” Asia turns on personal connections.

Yoshikazu Tsuno/Reuters/Pool

Governor Deval Patrick said that doing business in “relationship-centric” Asia turns on personal connections.

Nearly done with a 10-day trade mission to Asia, Governor Deval Patrick has already presided over two deals with Massachusetts firms in Japan, and expects to lay the groundwork for more as he hits Hong Kong and Singapore.

“We think there is more that they can do, more that we can do in Hong Kong, and we are meeting with the senior-most people here to make sure that they know we are interested,” Patrick said late Thursday by phone from Hong Kong.

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The governor said he has also met with an Asian Internet company about providing faster wireless connections in Massachusetts, as well as with biotech investors. Among the members of the Massachusetts delegation on the trip are executives associated with local health care and biotech institutions and companies.

This is the governor’s second trade mission to Asia; he visited China in 2007. The region is an important one for Massachusetts. Japan was the third-largest export market for the state in 2012, accounting for nearly $2 billion in exports, according to US Census data. Hong Kong and Singapore, meanwhile, ranked in the top 15.

Governor Deval Patrick chatted with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to talks in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images/Pool

Governor Deval Patrick chatted with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to talks in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Patrick said that doing business in “relationship-centric” Asia turns on personal connections, where giving people “the respect of showing up” often helps open doors.

The governor’s presence helped promote two partnerships announced earlier this week between Massachusetts and Japanese firms. Boston’s EnerNOC Inc., which helps clients manage electricity use, is forming a joint venture with Japan’s Marubeni Corp. The companies are slated to work together on a government-sponsored program for Japan’s largest utility. In addition, Desalitech, an Israeli company with US headquarters in Newton, is partnering with Toyo Engineering Corp. to introduce its water and waste-water treatment technologies to Japan.

Desalitech chief executive Nadav Efraty called Patrick’s trade mission a “catalyst to close this deal now.”

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“It got a lot more interest than it would have got without his presence,” Efraty said.

Mark Bunger, a research director at Boston-based market intelligence firm Lux Research Inc., said that is exactly why political leaders such as Patrick go on trade missions — not because they’re so knowledgeable about business, but because their names open doors and get people thinking, “Oh, Massachusetts is a place where we should be doing business.”

In Hong Kong, the delegation also planned to meet with mass transit leaders about how they use private companies to help finance and run transportation systems. Patrick was also scheduled to meet with a major manufacturer of subway cars about setting up a facility in Massachusetts, perhaps to build cars for the Red and Orange MBTA lines.

In Singapore, the last leg of the trip, Patrick said the visit would partly focus on water technology, a sector Massachusetts has been trying to foster. Singapore, an island nation with little land to collect and store rainwater, is considered a hub of water-related innovation.

Earl Jones, a member at the private equity firm Liberation Capital and part of Patrick’s delegation in Singapore, said a partnership between Singapore and Massachusetts would benefit both regions.

“We can help them grow in North America,” he said, “just like they can help our companies grow in Asia.”

Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.

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