HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is about to make his fifth trip to China to promote trade, saying his latest foray will be an opportunity to advance efforts for a direct air link with the economic powerhouse.
McNeil, who will head a delegation that leaves for Asia on Friday, said a successful effort would have trade ramifications for all of Atlantic Canada.
"We are the international airport for this coast," said McNeil. "I raised this issue with my sister provinces ... all of whom are very supportive of continuing to try to build that (air) connection."
He said he would like to see a link through Guangdong province, where Nova Scotia already has significant trade ties.
The premier said he will meet with Chinese airlines during the trip and will also have discussions with Canada's ambassador to China, John McCallum, who is supportive of the idea.
During a stop in Halifax in November, China's ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, discussed the air link with McNeil and said he would also work to "promote and make it happen."
The Nova Scotia delegation will also make stops in Tokyo and Seoul, South Korea, for government and business meetings before the mission wraps up Feb. 4.
McNeil will be joined by representatives of Nova Scotia Business Inc., the Halifax International Airport Authority, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs.
China is Nova Scotia's second largest trading partner after the U.S.
Officials say the trade relationship continues to grow, from $150 million in exports in 2012 to $494 million in 2016. Sectors ripe for continued growth include seafood (lobster, shrimp and crab), agrifoods — mainly blueberries and blueberry products — ocean technology, marine science, education and transportation.
"One of the things that's been very encouraging for us in the last four years has been the growth in the exports into that marketplace," McNeil said. "The other important part is when we are going in there, they are now recognizing Nova Scotia."