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Freeland gives big boost to Halifax broadcasting manufacturer

Foreign affairs minister visits N.S. company
Thu, Nov 22: Canada’s foreign affairs minister spent part of the day talking with a relatively unknown Nova Scotia company with a big footprint globally. Jeremy Keefe reports.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland paid a visit to Hackett’s Cove, N.S., on Thursday to tout the benefits of new international trade deals at a Nova Scotian manufacturing company.

Accompanied by Bernadette Jordan, MP for South Shore-St. Margaret’s, she toured the headquarters of Nautel — a company born and raised in the small community west of Halifax.

It builds radio transmitters and SONAR systems for export around the world.

The stop was part of Freeland’s tour of Atlantic Canada, where she has praised her government’s negotiation of free trade deals, including the latest iteration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the replacement for NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

READ MORE: GOP senators urge Trump to fast-track USMCA vote before Democrats take over House

She encouraged Nova Scotian businesses to seize their piece of the economic pie and make the most of exchange opportunities with Canada’s biggest export partners, China and the United States.

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“Innovation in Canada doesn’t just happen in great cities. … There are tremendous, fabulous, innovative, world-leading companies based all over the country, including right here in rural Nova Scotia,” Freeland told reporters.

“Our country is a real international leader in so many areas and I’m not sure Canadians really realize how great our businesses are. So it’s been a great learning experience for me and it’s something that I think is great to share with all Canadians.”

Freeland also gave a shout out to Nautel, which she called “a fantastic example of an innovative, Canadian-owned company.” While the manufacturer remains headquartered in Hackett’s Cove, it has more than 16,000 customers in 177 countries around the world.

Established in 1969, according to its website, Nautel invented the world’s first solid-state, high-power radio beacon transmitter in 1970 and played a key role in developing digital transmission technologies in the early 2000s. It employs more than 200 employees and has a research and development team of 50 engineers.

READ MORE: Could new NAFTA deal be signed next week? Bill Morneau says he’s hopeful

“Think about it  — 95 per cent of the stuff made here is sold around the world,” Freeland said. “That is pretty remarkable and I think that’s a story Canadians should hear.”

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Mike Morris, chief operating officer for Nautel, said the minister’s visit is most welcome. The company is loyal to its roots and employees in Hackett’s Cove and wouldn’t have it any other way, he explained, but its rural location has come at the cost of some brand recognition.

“Despite all that time, there’s still a lot of people that don’t know we even exist,” he said in an interview. “Our customers and people in our industry know us well but the general population doesn’t, so having visitors like Minister Freeland come helps us get the word out.”

Morris said his company benefits greatly from free trade agreements given that 45 per cent of its production is exported to the U.S. alone. It’s too soon, he added, to gauge how the Trudeau government’s version of the NAFTA deal will impact the business for better or worse.

The USMCA has not been ratified, although the federal government hopes to ink it sometime next week.

Freeland’s tour of Atlantic Canada continues with stops in New Brunswick.