(Bloomberg) -- Deepening Canada’s military and economic ties with Asian democracies is a top priority, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top diplomat said as she wraps up a week-long visit to Japan and South Korea.

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in an interview Canada wants to use its resources, including critical minerals, to help Asian allies reduce their reliance on authoritarian countries like Russia and China, just like it plans to do for Europe.

“We believe that this is our neighborhood,” Joly said by phone Thursday from Seoul. “Changing our mindset and looking west is extremely important.”

Joly’s remarks echo themes raised by one of her predecessors at the foreign ministry during a major speech this week in Washington. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is also Trudeau’s deputy prime minister, called Tuesday for an economic alliance of liberal democracies as a counterweight to the “comeback” of authoritarianism around the world.

Military cooperation -- particularly around the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea -- was a significant focus during Joly’s trip. Canada and Japan are beginning work on a new intelligence sharing agreement, she said, and fostering closer ties on defense procurement.

LNG Exports

The minister has pledged to release a new Indo-Pacific strategy by year’s end. Canada also needs to “leverage our strengths” on economic security in the region, she said, pointing to a major Shell Plc-led liquefied natural gas export terminal being built on Canada’s west coast as a prime example.

“Starting in 2025 Canada will be one of the main LNG suppliers for Japan and Korea, and that will definitely have an impact on our relationship,” Joly said. Asked if the government sees opportunity for building further LNG export capacity to Asia, the minister said any such move would be “a private sector decision.”

Joly’s talks in Asia included bilateral sessions with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as well as separate meetings with the foreign ministers of both Japan and South Korea. She also used them to highlight the fact Canada can supply seven of the 11 critical minerals needed for electric vehicle battery production.

“They’re extremely interested in sourcing these critical minerals from Canada, contrary to sourcing them from China,” she said.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.