Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Singapore on Tuesday afternoon primed to make his pitch to a Singapore business audience: Amid new barriers to trading with the U.S., why not consider Canada?

Trudeau has a busy three days planned at the margins of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia summits.

Canada isn’t a member of either group, but is lobbying for a seat at the latter to try to be more of a regional player on security issues. And it’s exploring a potential comprehensive trade agreement with the 10-country ASEAN bloc.

“We have an openness towards investment and to immigration that is extremely positive,” Trudeau said before meeting with the Canada–​ASEAN Business Council. “One of the things that is a big differentiator between us and our neighbour to the south right now is the fact that top companies can get visas for their top talent in certain sectors in less than two weeks, to be able to come and set up shop in Canada, and start doing great things with us.”

Trudeau said his visit comes as Canada is “particularly engaged in a positive way on the world stage.”

Last month, his government wrapped up consultations with Canada’s business community gauging the appetite for comprehensive trade talks with ASEAN. Trudeau expects to have more to say “in due course.”

“We go through Singapore to the entire world because this is such an important trading hub,” Trudeau said. Singapore is the world’s largest transshipment hub, with goods passing through to somewhere else.

“The incomes in this part of the world have been rising dramatically,” said Wayne Farmer, volunteer president of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council. “This is where the action is.”

“In some ways the NAFTA agreement has been almost too good for Canada because it really has shaped our trade and commerce flows,” Farmer said. “Now that things are a little bit different, I think it is a wake-up call that Canada needs to diversify.”

While ASEAN countries might be interested in a trade deal that cuts tariffs, it’s unclear they’re prepared to take other steps Canada may want to see before deepening trade relations.

Nevertheless, “it’s an advantage to stand up for your values,” said former foreign service officer Emilie Potvin, who now works for the Uber ride-sharing service in Southeast and North Asia. “Canada is seen clearly right now as a leader.” When it comes to rights, Trudeau is “willing to have that conversation” with everyone, she said.

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