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Tony Abbott targets Canadian retirement savings for investment

Met: Francois Hollande and Tony Abbott.

Met: Francois Hollande and Tony Abbott. Photo: Andrew Meares

Unlocking hundreds of billions of dollars held in the giant Canadian retirement savings sector is a key objective of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's lightning visit to Ottawa on Sunday and Monday in the second leg of his three-country mission. But emphasising the two countries' caution on climate change policy against a newly assertive US will also feature.

The bilateral visit comes despite the leaders of both countries having been together just 24 hours before in France.

Mr Abbott believes Canadian superannuation funds such as the major public sector portfolios that together control more than $400 billion can be attracted to invest in new ports, road and rail projects, and other public infrastructure plans in Australia, some of which are stalled because of a lack of adequate capital.

The Prime Minister flew to Ottawa from France on Sunday. In France, his program had been dominated by the 70th anniversary commemorations of the allied D-Day campaign and the 100th anniversary of the First World War and, particularly, its costly Western Front battles, which Mr Abbott believes rank as Australia's greatest military contribution.

Mr Abbott wants to elevate the Western Front in the Australian consciousness, suggesting its 46,000 death toll should be seen as at least the equal of the effort at Gallipoli, with the former being a ''devastating victory'' and the latter a ''glorious defeat''.

Mr Abbott's trip to Canada, the first prime ministerial visit there since John Howard in 2006, is more about business and future co-operation, and comes with a solid business delegation. A round-table meeting will put Australian business leaders face to face with Canadian success stories and the big retirement fund managers.

The visit is aimed at reinforcing the closeness of the two countries and cementing the bonds between the two conservative leaders, Mr Abbott and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mr Abbott believes Canadian retirement funds would be more inclined to consider investment in Australia, and in stable infrastructure projects in particular, if it is front of mind.

As such, his visit to Canada has no hard measurable goals in terms of trade agreements, but is rather about soft diplomacy.

The last stop on the current tour will be the US from Monday evening, with a busy but as yet unfinalised schedule of talks with government and business leaders in New York, Washington and Houston.

In the US, Mr Abbott will hold his first bilateral talks with US President Barack Obama, where he is expected to discuss issues from the strategic - tensions in the South and East China seas, for example - to the economic, with the White House still keen to see climate change policy re-instated on the agenda of the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November.

Fairfax Media understands the issue is likely to get formal recognition on the agenda, but probably under a mutually agreeable heading such as ''energy efficiency''.

Before leaving France, Mr Abbott met with President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace, discussing the need for peace to underpin global growth, the situation in Ukraine, security and intelligence sharing to address such crises as Syria, and the need for action on climate change.

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