- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday he’s trying to lure Canadian businesses to Nebraska as part of his trade mission focused largely on agriculture, manufacturing and other major industries.

Ricketts said he spoke with a company, which he declined to identify, about expanding its operations into the state. The trade delegation pitched the state to companies in an event dubbed, “Why Nebraska?”

The five-day trade mission is part of an effort to connect Nebraska and Canadian companies. It will include meetings with government, agricultural and manufacturing officials in Toronto and Ottawa. Ricketts said the trip marks the first visit by a Nebraska governor.

“It’s up to us to have strong relationships,” Ricketts said on a news conference call between stops.

Ricketts has said he chose Canada for a trade mission because it’s Nebraska’s largest export market, and thus the state’s best customer. The trade delegation is comprised of state agriculture and economic development administrators, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Corn Growers, Nebraska Cattlemen Association and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

Ricketts said he also has had several discussions about the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he supports. Representatives from the United States, Mexico and Canada are scheduled to begin talks next week to renegotiate the agreement.

“We also want to make sure we keep in mind the big picture that NAFTA has been tremendously successful,” Ricketts said. “That’s an important relationship that we don’t want to disrupt.”

Many of the conversations with Canadian officials have focused on agricultural exports, such as corn and dairy products, said Mark McHargue, the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s first vice president. Nebraska exported $468 million worth of agriculture goods to the country last year, according to data provided by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

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