Harper heads to APEC summit in Bali preaching trade amid Asian economic worries

OTTAWA – Stephen Harper and some of his senior ministers are headed to Southeast Asia this morning in an effort to drum up support for trade and foreign investment at a leaders’ summit in Bali.

Along the way, the prime minister will stop in Kuala Lumpur, Harper’s first visit to Malaysia since taking office in January 2006.

It’s all part of a continuing Conservative government push into Southeast Asia that got off to a slow start and has since been hobbled by mixed messages.

Harper says the week-long trip to Malaysia and Indonesia will advance regional trade and promote Canada as a preferred business partner.

However, some experts say Canada is sending the wrong signals on investment by state-owned enterprises, which is a factor in direct foreign investment plummeting by more than 90 per cent this year compared to last.

Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas and China’s CNOOC were the last state-owned companies to buy majority stakes in the Alberta oil patch before the Conservatives changed the rules last year, essentially stopping majority ownership bids by such foreign enterprises.