The Quebec premier began his multi-day tour to Italy and France on Tuesday in hopes of attracting European investment to develop the province's northern territory and the St. Lawrence River's shipping and tourism infrastructure.
Funding was cut to the province's permanent delegation to Rome because "Quebec has no money," not because of a lack of interest in Italian investment, he said.
"The message is not contradictory," Couillard told reporters. "Quebec is facing a major financial impasse. This year we have limited financial means."
Couillard said he thought it important to maintain Quebec's diplomatic presence in Italy while at the same time cutting back in certain areas.
"We have to manage our money and choose our priorities," he said.
He spoke to a few dozen business people in Italy regarding investment possibilities in Quebec's forestry and mining sectors as well as in his government's plan to expand the traffic and reach of its deep-water ports.
There are no immediate deals, however. Couillard said he sees his trip as a way to re-connect Quebec with Italy, considering no premier has been to the country since 2001.
On Wednesday, Couillard is scheduled to meet briefly with Pope Francis and is expected to invite him to Montreal for the city's 375th anniversary celebrations in 2017.
Couillard will be in Paris on Thursday to meet Prime Minister Manuel Walls.
He is also scheduled to attend a ceremony that day inducting Haitian-Quebecois writer Dany Laferriere into L'Academie francaise, France's council for the French language.
Couillard's main political foe, Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau, will also be at the Laferriere event as he visits Paris from Wednesday until Friday.