Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be meeting with business leaders in Malaysia Saturday prior to attending the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

Harper arrived in Kuala Lumpur late Friday, Malaysian Time. He will chair a roundtable where the subject of Canada's natural gas industry is expected to come up. There are already ties in that sector between the two countries.

The Malaysian state-owned oil company, Petronas, bought Calgary-based Progress last year in a $6-billion friendly deal.

The two companies are now trying to build a pipeline and a liquefied natural gas plant in British Columbia.

This comes at a time when the natural gas industry is looking for new markets.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers points out that exports to Canada’s largest foreign natural gas customer, the United States, are down 16 per cent. 

'Our largest customer is now our largest competitor'- Geoff Morrison, CAPP

CAPP says those numbers are predicted to drop even further because the U.S. has enough gas of its own now, with the development of its shale gas reserves.

Geoff Morrison, with CAPP’s British Columbia office, puts it this way: “Our largest customer is now our largest competitor.”

“So diversification of markets for western Canadian producers is vitally important. Asia is a place that is growing economically.

"So there’s a great desire for all forms of energy but particularly for natural gas and particularly in those emerging economies of Asia,” Morrison adds.

'Terrific partner'

The president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada says Malaysia is a good partner, in particular. Yuen Pow Woo points to Malaysia’s long history as an oil and gas producer, whose reserves are now drying up.

“What Malaysia has and will have for a very long time is expertise in the trading of energy products, including natural gas.

"And why I think Petronas is such a terrific partner, is because they bring not just the expertise to build liquification plants but also to run the business, to find markets, and to get gas to markets,” Woo told CBC.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration lists Malaysia as the second largest exporter of liquefied natural gas globally, and is strategically located among strategic routes for seaborne energy trade.

Natural gas isn’t the only business interest between the two countries.

Bombardier has won a contract for the new mass rapid transit system that’s being constructed in the Klang Valley in Malaysia.

Harper's roundtable of business leaders Saturday in Kuala Lumpur will include Blackberry, Bombardier, CAE, Celestica, Manulife Financial, OSI Maritime Systems, Petronas-Progress, Scotiabank Malaysia, Sunlife Financial, Talisman, Teknion and Viking Air.