Trudeau says foreign investment ‘key”

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DAVOS, Switzerland – Justin Trudeau will sit down with the head of the European Parliament on Saturday, as the prime minister makes another push for more foreign investment in Canada.

Trudeau will meet European Parliament President Martin Schulz as officials work to finalize a Canada-Europe free trade agreement started under the previous Conservative government that could mean billions for Canadian companies.

The final text of the comprehensive deal on goods and services, known as CETA, will go before the European Parliament by mid-2016. The only impediment to ratification could be a dispute-resolution process for investors that disagree with government decisions.

Trudeau said Friday he was optimistic the deal will be done.

“This is an important opportunity for Canada and Europe and I’m looking forward to getting it signed,” Trudeau said in Davos, Switzerland, near the end of the World Economic Forum.

The meeting comes after days of meetings between Trudeau and the heads of multinational companies, with the prime minister looking to attract investors.

Trudeau said the Liberals plan to work with national and international companies to create jobs domestically.

“Our government understands that global trade and foreign investment are key drivers of economic growth and important sources of new jobs. This will be a key priority for us,” Trudeau said during a luncheon speech.

Trudeau has used his time at the summit in the Swiss Alps to take part in the networking that goes on during the forum and meet the heads of multinational companies, including billionaire Jack Ma, who founded Asian e-commerce giant Alibaba.

The two talked about how Alibaba could help scale up, small, online businesses in Canada. In chatting outside the meeting room, Ma said the business markets in China and Canada are changing, making space for a new way of doing things.

Doing things differently in Canada was a key message Trudeau and his ministers delivered in Davos. During a keynote speech on the opening day of the summit, Trudeau said he wanted Canada to be less focused on being a resource-based economy.

Declining oil prices have hit resource-rich provinces like Alberta hard and the low loonie has meant higher prices for some consumer goods and made travelling to the United States more expensive for vacationing Canadians and snowbirds.

The flip side of the low dollar is a better market for exporters and for Canadian companies looking for investors to help them grow.

Andrew Fursman, CEO of Vancouver-based quantum computing company 1QBit, said companies like his regularly have to look abroad to partner with some of the largest companies in the world.

“Canada is a great place to start a small business, but it’s a very difficult place to really grow to that next level,” Fursman said.

“For us to be able to connect with (international businesses) and tell them about the work that we’re doing and to invite to invest in 1QBit, to invest in Canada and to be part of what we’re doing, this is a great platform to be able to take advantage of that.”

The low dollar helps attract those foreign investors, he said, because they know their money will buy more and make the investment go further.