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Diplomat urges businesses to explore Great White North

JACKSON — Gov. Phil Bryant and a Canadian diplomat are urging Mississippi’s business community to look north for trading opportunities.

Stephen Brereton, Canada’s consul general in Atlanta, spoke before the Mississippi Economic Council yesterday at its annual Hobnob event in Jackson.

The Canadian ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, had been scheduled to attend. But he was unable to travel to Mississippi because of storm-related flight cancellations still snarling the East Coast.

Bryant and Brereton said Mississippi and Canada should try to add to their trade, which totaled $2.6 billion in 2011. Mississippi sent $1.8 billion in goods and services to Canada, the state’s top export destination, while bringing back $800 million.

“We are very proud to be Mississippi’s No. 1 trading partner,” Brereton said.

Bryant said Mississippi hopes to welcome more Canadian investment, citing the recent announcement that Roxul, a maker of rock wool, would invest $130 million and create 150 jobs in Marshall County. Roxul is the Canadian unit of a Danish company.

“We’re just beginning our relationship with Canada,” Bryant said.

Brereton said that Canada and the United States have tightly connected business communities that rely on each other

“We make things together,” he said. “We are an integrated economy and we seek ways to strengthen those ties.”

Bryant said he supported efforts at “co-manufacturing,” Mississippi and Canadian firms working together. He mentioned the possibility that Mississippi firms could help Canada build new ships for its navy.

Brereton also noted Canada’s place as the largest oil exporter to the United States. He only indirectly mentioned the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, which a Canadian firm wants to build to move Albertan oil to the United States, but noted that American firms benefit by selling supplies and services for Canadian oil exploration.

Bryant voiced his support for the pipeline after the speech, saying it would help bring cheap and reliable oil to the Southeast while creating jobs for Americans.

“We look forward to further developments and that Keystone pipeline helping to bring energy to America,” Bryant said.

At least one protester from the Green Party of Mississippi protested the pipeline outside the meeting at the state agriculture museum.

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