PORTLAND, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage and New Brunswick Premier David Alward signed an agreement Monday outlining greater collaboration on economic issues between the state and government of the province to which Maine exports have increased in the past year.
LePage’s office said in a statement Monday that representatives from Maine and New Brunswick will form a new joint committee to carry out the agreement’s goals, which include boosting employment, increasing trade and tourism and working together on issues related to transportation, energy and emergency preparedness.
Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for the governor, wrote in an email that members of the joint committee have not been designated but that the agreement calls for the committee to be led by New Brunswick’s deputy minister, or a designee, and an appointee of the governor.
A copy of the memorandum was not immediately available.
Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of the Maine International Trade Center, said such an agreement serves to prompt more conversation between parties on both sides of the border about potential boons to each economy.
“I know [memorandums of understanding] aren’t super specific, but what they are is a starting point in terms of negotiations and prioritizing for the future,” Bisaillon-Cary said.
LePage signed a similar agreement last year to cooperate on economic issues with Pauline Marois, premier of the province of Quebec.
That agreement, Bisaillion-Cary said, has led to some meetings between parties involved in the composites industry on both sides of the border. Beyond that, she cited JD Irving’s investment in a sawmill in Ashland as one example of potential for more commerce with and foreign investment from New Brunswick.
According to data compiled by the trade center and the service WISERTrade, exports to New Brunswick increased about 38 percent from 2011 to 2013, to $635.3 million, and are on pace to rise again this year, based on statistics from January to April.
The House and Senate Republicans office said three Republican lawmakers were present at the signing: Washington County Sen. David Burns, Aroostook County Sen. Roger Sherman and Burlington Rep. Beth Turner.
The lawmakers lauded the agreement in a prepared statement, saying it lists areas of mutual interest for the governments.
The governor said the agreement is the first of its kind signed with New Brunswick. In July 2010, then Gov. John Baldacci and Shawn Graham, then premier of New Brunswick, signed a memorandum of understanding to promote cultural exchange between the regions and to collaborate on organization of the World Acadian Congress taking place throughout the St. John Valley, western New Brunswick and the Temiscouata region of Quebec in August.
The new agreement with New Brunswick specifies the provincial government and Maine should discuss production of hydropower and biomass energy.