PM unfazed by Nortel deal

PANAMA CITY — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday he’s not about to take any extraordinary measures to block the sale of Nortel assets to foreign buyers.

PANAMA CITY — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday he’s not about to take any extraordinary measures to block the sale of Nortel assets to foreign buyers.

Harper’s first detailed remarks about Nortel came when he was asked about it at a news conference during his visit to Panama.

Nortel, a global telecom network vendor that was once Canada’s most valuable company, is selling off key assets after seeking bankruptcy protection in Canada and the United States since January.

Company executives have been working to sell off pieces of the business as part of an auction process. The first round involved the sale of Nortel’s wireless assets to Stockholm-based Ericsson for $1.13 billion. The deal includes a commitment to employ 800 Canadians from Nortel.

“This transaction will be examined under the Investment Canada Act,” Harper said.

“There is a process in place to ensure that the transactions are examined when they are of significant size, and to ensure that they are in Canada’s national interest. That process will be respected.”

“But we will certainly not be bringing forward any kind of legislation to increase protectionism in terms of foreign investment in Canada,” Harper said.

“At a time when we are trying to open markets globally, we obviously don’t intend to go down the path of advancing further protectionism through legislation.”

The Liberals and New Democrats have been asking the Harper government to scrap the deal, arguing it would put cutting-edge Canadian technology in foreign hands.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has made a similar appeal. Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement was non-committal earlier.

out any action to block the sale to Ericsson.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM), which has expressed an interest in acquiring some of Nortel’s assets, including those to be sold to Ericsson, welcomed the prime minister’s comments.

“Through his comments today, the prime minister has acted in a way that could facilitate an outcome that serves the interests of all parties and of Canada,” RIM said in statement.

“RIM urges the government during the time in which it is reviewing the transaction to convene the parties in order to try to bring about such an agreement.”

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