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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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N.S. premier talks trade with Israel

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Nova Scotia Premier Darrel Dexter, centre, plants a tree in Israel as Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Paul Hunt, left, and Andy Michelson of the Jewish National Fund, look on. [Mati Milstein photo]

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter is full of enthusiasm, optimism and hope after heading a one-week trade mission of provincial business and educational leaders to Israel.

“It was extraordinarily positive, and certainly successful, as even those who went with modest expectations learned much and made contacts through a great spirit of co-operation,” he said on his return last Friday. “The Israeli government went out of its way to accommodate us.”

A group of a dozen Nova Scotians, representing education, technology, medical research, shipping and real estate, made the trip, meeting their counterparts and discovering opportunities that exceeded their initial thoughts.

Dexter was particularly impressed with Israeli President Shimon Peres who, the premier said, “was well-briefed on Nova Scotia, knew what we were about and spoke in very visionary terms about what working together could provide. He was enthused about our technology and research opportunities and said, ‘Bankers deal with yesterday’s money. Research and technology deal with tomorrow’s money.’ I thought that was a visionary way of taking advantage of your research asset.”

Meetings were held with officials at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science, who, Dexter said, “are masters at taking basic research and transferring it to commercial products. From them, we learned methods of doing this and hope to use it in our research areas.”

Dalhousie University’s vice-president of research, Martha Crago, signed a memorandum of understanding between Dalhousie and Hebrew U, strengthening their commitment to explore opportunities for collaboration on international research.

When Dexter and the educational component of the mission met with Daniel Hershkowitz, Israel’s minister of science and technology, and he learned of Nova Scotia’s 400 researchers and technologists in marine science, he immediately realized the chance to collaborate.

A followup meeting with the president of the University of Haifa resulted in an immediate plan. “He told us it was an opportunity that couldn’t be lost [to work with our researchers] and scheduled to come to Halifax to meet with our marine research people next week.”

Dexter met with a group of Palestinian-Canadian businesspeople in Ramallah. “There’s a lively business community there, looking to find business partners. One man out of Toronto, who has an olive oil business, is seeking markets, and we suggested there were links that could be established in Nova Scotia.

“Even speakers we heard in Israel had a common theme: creating an economy in the West Bank that would make life more hopeful and lead to better governance and a stable system for a better economy.”

A visit to the headquarters of the large container shipping company Zim had positive results for Dexter and Karen Oldfield, president and CEO of the Halifax Port Authority. Zim has a 40-year relationship with the Halifax port, but because of recent economic times, cut its traffic to Halifax a couple of years ago.

“They know of our new $25-billion Irving contract to build frigates that will increase business in the port, and now they expect to exceed the number of their containers currently going through the port,” Dexter said.

Meetings with telecom service provider Amdocs and security company Elbit Systems of Haifa were fruitful as well. Amdocs talked of bringing work to Nova Scotia. Elbit was excited about the Irving contract that could expand relationships the company already has at Halifax Shipyards.

The Nova Scotians also visited Metullah and the Canada Centre sports complex, a project supported by the Atlantic Jewish Council. “It was nice to see the support our local community provides Israel,” Dexter said.

At Israel’s only ice rink, Dexter presented officials with a Sydney Crosby No. 87 hockey jersey and a Nova Scotia hockey jersey with No. 27, signifying that Dexter is the 27th premier of the province.

 

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