Harper in Japan for trade talks after Thailand visit
Published Saturday, March 24, 2012 9:50PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived Saturday in Japan, where he is expected to formally launch free-trade talks, after wrapping up a visit to Thailand with a $12-million pledge to combat human smuggling.
While in Tokyo, Harper will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. A joint study on economic co-operation has shown a number of areas where Canada and Japan could work together, government officials said. The trading relationship between Japan and Canada amounts to nearly $24 billion a year.
The Japanese government is also expected to relax restrictions on Canadian beef imports.
In Bangkok earlier Saturday, Harper said the federal government has set aside $12 million over two years to combat human smuggling, of which $7 million will go toward projects in Southeast Asia. Thailand will be a major beneficiary.
"Thailand is an important partner in efforts to reduce human smuggling and terrorism in Southeast Asia," Harper said in a statement.
He said anti-smuggling efforts will protect both Thai citizens and foreign travellers -- including Canadians -- in the region.
The project will be funded through Canada's Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program, which helps other countries fight crime with up-to-date training and equipment.
The remaining $5 million will be spent on training police and immigration officers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
On Friday, Canada and Thailand signed a so-called "letter of understanding" on security co-operation initiatives.
The Conservative government said Thailand is both a source and a transit point for illegal migrants heading toward Canada.
A boat carrying about 500 Sri Lankan Tamils, which arrived in B.C. coast in August 2010, was from Thailand.
With files from The Canadian Press