June 7, 2017 6:36 pm
Updated: June 7, 2017 6:50 pm

N.S. Premier Stephen McNeil in Washington to nail home NAFTA, softwood lumber

Premier Stephen McNeil is pictured.

Nova Scotia Premier's Office

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is in Washington, D.C. Wednesday alongside other premiers from across the country to promote the importance of ties between Canada and the U.S.

McNeil told Global News Wednesday that as premier it was “critical” to come to the U.S. capital to press the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The message comes as the United States has signalled it wants to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico.

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READ MORE: NAFTA, softwood negotiations to remain separate, at least for now: minister

“Our message to them, really, is that Canada and Nova Scotia is open for business,” McNeil said. “We wanted to continue to make sure that they understand how important we believe they are to us and we are to them.”

He said that no one is opposed to the NAFTA conversation but the talks need to get done quickly to modernize it. He said it will allow them to build on opportunities for both Nova Scotia and Canada.

The premier said he had met with energy and agriculture department officials and attended a dinner with several business leaders to drive the point home about NAFTA. He said the deal should be updated to reflect the changes that have happened in the past 25 years.

McNeil was also in Washington to talk softwood lumber, which saw the U.S. Department of Commerce put a 19.88 per cent tariff placed on Nova Scotia softwood lumber being shipped into the neighbouring country.

READ MORE: Softwood lumber to be topic of interest as Gallant goes to Ottawa

He said the industry in the U.S. recognizes Nova Scotia should be set aside and they recommended the province be excluded from the trade dispute.

“We’re down here to continue to build on that. We’re hoping we’ll see some movement on that in the not too distant future,” McNeil said.

“If you look at softwood lumber across the country it’s a complex issue dealing with different parts of Canada but we in the Maritimes have always had that exclusion and we’re going to continue to make sure that we lay out the facts and we believe that the facts will prevail.

The two-day trip, known as the Council of the Federation mission, was to promote the relationship between the two countries and is the council is made up of all 13 provincial and territorial premiers. The mission runs from Tuesday to Thursday.

READ MORE: Trudeau government unveils plan to help softwood lumber producers

The trip also comes only a week after McNeil won his second mandate and majority in the provincial election.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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