Gov. Paul LePage has canceled plans to participate in the State of Maine Trade Mission to South America in November, choosing to stay in Maine and focus on fiscal priorities in preparation for the next legislative session, the governor’s office said in a news release Friday.

The release said LePage decided against the mission to Chile and Brazil because of challenges involving the 2012-13 supplemental budget process. The governor also will take part in a zero-based budgeting exercise.

“It is incumbent that I attend to these matters here in Maine,” said LePage in the release. The governor’s office could not be reached for comment Friday night.

LePage announced in June that he would lead the mission, organized by the Maine International Trade Center in Portland and scheduled for Nov. 12-19.

He would have been the first Maine governor to visit South America since 1997.

The mission is meant to encourage trade by helping Maine business people establish relationships in Chile and Brazil.

Representatives from nearly a dozen Maine-based companies are still expected to make the trip. Attendees will be able to visit companies and research institutions, meet with executives and government officials and attend networking events and market briefings.

Janine Bisaillon-Cary, state director of international trade and president of the trade center, said in June that Chile and Brazil offer extensive trade opportunities for Maine companies.

The gross domestic product of Brazil, which has the world’s ninth-largest economy, grew 7.5 percent to nearly $2.2 trillion in 2010, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.

In 2010, Maine exported $32.8 million worth of products, mostly pulp and paper, to Brazil.

The gross domestic product of Chile grew 5.3 percent in 2010, to $257.9 billion.

American exports to Chile have increased 300 percent since the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2003.

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or at:

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