Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began laying out his case for closer trade ties with Asian nations Tuesday, and issuing a challenge to domestic businesses to not disappear once the ink dries on any government-struck agreements.

Speaking to a room of Canadian companies already invested in the region, and local companies interested in investing in Canada, Trudeau tried to frame Canada as an isle of political, social and economic stability in the world — noting the ease to get a visa for top tech talent relative to the longer times in the United States.

The first event after landing in Singapore set the stage for what the Liberals hope will be a clearer picture of how to pursue freer trade with a 10-nation bloc of major suppliers and customers, which includes Singapore.

“We’ll be talking about our potential with ASEAN and continuing to look at securing more trade opportunities,” Trudeau said at the roundtable talk.

“However, as you well know, having a trade deal isn’t automatically all you need to do in order to increase business connections. The real work, actually, gets started after you have signed the papers and that is building the relationships, building the connections, building the facility and also changing mindsets — getting Canadian companies to see the opportunities we have around the world to partner and invest.”

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says a confluence of events — Canadian trade deals finalized with Europe and Pacific Rim countries, and a new one in principle with Mexico and the U.S., while President Donald Trump raises trade barriers with others — gives Trudeau help with either path.

“It puts the prime minister in a much better position in the sense of, he’s uniquely on the offensive. He is in there to say we want to be part of (this),” said Charest, who is the honorary chairman of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council. “It will be put in the backdrop of this broader world to say, ‘With everything that is happening on the trade front, all this makes sense for you and it makes sense for us.”

A preliminary study of a Canada-ASEAN trade agreement has been done. Hammering out a final agreement could take up to eight years, Charest said.

Source: The Canadian Press

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