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Canada's Trudeau makes his pitch for HQ2 as he tours San Francisco's tech scene

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pitched Canada's tech market in San Francisco on Thursday.
  • Trudeau met with Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Salesforce's Marc Benioff among other tech execs.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plays a game of foosball with high school students.
Chris So | Getty Images
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plays a game of foosball with high school students.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in San Francisco this week promoting the Canadian tech scene, and he's getting face time with some of the biggest players in the industry.

Trudeau landed meetings with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and eBay's Devin Wenig, as well as Robert Bradway, the head of biotech company Amgen.

On Thursday, Trudeau toured the headquarters of cloud software company AppDirect and met with some employees. He then took questions from reporters and was asked about Toronto's bid for Amazon's second headquarters, dubbed HQ2.

"Any investment in Canada would be a great thing and obviously it would be a significant boon for anyone who got it," Trudeau said. "I certainly hope we get the HQ2 hub."

Last month, Amazon narrowed the list of potential HQ2 locations to 20, and Toronto was the only city outside of the U.S. to make the next round.

Trudeau also said that he's had conversations with Bezos over the past few years about investing more in Canada.

While in San Francisco, Trudeau has been touting Canada's tech talent and virtues as a technology hub. At his roundtable with Benioff Thursday morning, Salesforce announced that it would invest $2 billion in Canada over the next five years to build out its data centers and hire more people.

Trudeau is also capitalizing on a less-than-favorable immigration environment in the U.S., where President Trump is threatening to pull out of NAFTA and pushing an "America first" agenda at the expense of people born elsewhere.

Canada is making the case that it's a friendlier place for immigrants and is offering a two-week fast track called global skills visa for some foreign workers.

"One of the things that tech companies have said repeatedly to me and to others is that they're always looking to bring new talent over," Trudeau said. "And talent is global now."

Facebook and Samsung have opened artificial intelligence labs in Montreal. Toronto is home to Uber's research lab for driverless technology and attracted Google's high-tech Sidewalk Labs project. AppDirect co-CEO Daniel Saks announced on Thursday that his company would be doubling its presence in Canada, adding over 300 jobs.

Trudeau has a delicate balancing act in front of him. Canada has some big homegrown technology companies like Shopify and Hootsuite. Trudeau is out to attract investment from U.S. businesses while ensuring that they don't lure too much talent away from the local players.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau talking to employees at AppDirect in San Francisco in February 2018.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau talking to employees at AppDirect in San Francisco in February 2018.