By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The Canadian flag was displayed prominently with the United States flag, and both national anthems were played Wednesday at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob.
The event, designed to allow the state’s business leadership to hobnob with the political leadership, drew about 1,000 statewide to the program where Canada was recognized as Mississippi’s largest trading partner.
Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, had to cancel his plans to attend the event – held under a large tent at the state’s Agriculture Museum – because of travel problems on the East Coast caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Stephen Brereton, consul general of Canada’s Consulate in Atlanta, spoke in Doer’s stead and said the trading relationship with Mississippi is important to his country and predicted it would only be strengthened in the coming years.
“We would like to see the relationship continue to grow,” he said.
Gov. Phil Bryant predicted there would be cooperation in the future on manufacturing efforts between Canada and Mississippi. He cited energy as an area for growth.
Canada already is America’s top supplier of energy. But Brereton said Canada also wanted to expand its alternative energy efforts. He cited Quebec-based Enerkem locating a plant in Pontotoc to convert municipal waste to ethanol as a cooperative biofuel effort.
The plant, which took advantage of $130 million in federal funds, will employ more than 70 people in Pontotoc.
Mississippi exports $1.8 billion annually to Canada, including equipment and machinery, vehicles, plastics and rubbers and forest products. More than 60,000 Mississippi jobs depend on exports to Canada.
Mississippi imports $815 million annually from Canada.
“We make things together” Brereton said.
Bryant cited the possibility of a partnership to build ships. He said Canada was in the process of adding ships.
“We are very good at building ships,” the governor said.
Canada is the top trading partner with 35 states.