Trudeau pitches Canada as tech jobs haven on trip to U.S.

The Associated Press

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, takes part in a roundtable discussion with Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff in San Francisco on Thursday.

The Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brings what some call his “maple charm offensive” to San Francisco on Thursday with a dual agenda: Pitch Canada as a destination for American tech firms amid increasing unease over U.S. immigration policy and remind California of its long trade relationship with the country, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to bow out of NAFTA.

The heated debate over immigration since Trump’s election has provided a clear opening for Canada to pitch itself to Silicon Valley. As American employers worry about access to foreign workers, Canada is offering a two-week fast-track employment permit for certain workers, dubbed the “global skills strategy visa.”

Government-sponsored billboards in Silicon Valley pitch: “H1-B Problems? Pivot to Canada.” Recruiters from cities in Canada attend Canadian university alumni events in the valley, urging graduates to come home “to your next career move in the Great White North.”

There are also hundreds, maybe thousands — no one can say for sure — of Canadians in the tech industry in Northern California, many of them on visas made possible through the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump called NAFTA a job-killing “disaster” on the campaign trail and has threatened to withdraw from it if he can’t get what he wants.

“Without the NAFTA, those [jobs] go away. That could cause immediate disruption for the tech community” on both sides of the border, said Daniel Ujczo, an international trade lawyer based in Columbus, Ohio, who has been part of the NAFTA talks, now in their sixth round.

“It’s unfortunately not an area that is up for discussion. Canada and Mexico keep raising worker mobility issues, but the U.S. won’t discuss it,” he said.

Trudeau is meeting Thursday with eBay CEO Devin Wenig, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. Salesforce, which provides online software for business, announced Thursday it will invest another $2 billion in its Canadian operations. Trudeau’s meeting with Bezos comes just weeks after Toronto, which has created a government-sponsored innovation hub for tech companies, was among the cities that made the shortlist for Amazon’s second headquarters.Speech

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