Despite budgetary cuts that affect Quebec's International Relations Department, Couillard said he is convinced the province should assume, more than ever, a leadership role internationally at various levels.
"We have to keep up the pace, the worst thing is to be absent," he told a news conference in Rome. "The world is open, globalization exists and Quebec must be present on the international scene."
Couillard also said Quebec should continue to speak with its own voice outside the province, as will be the case in Paris in December at a United Nations conference on climate change.
"I will never make Quebec go backward," he said. "I want Quebec to advance, notably with an international presence."
The Quebec premier began his European trip on Tuesday hoping to attract investment to develop the province’s northern territory and the St. Lawrence River's shipping and tourism infrastructure.
The trip also included a brief meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday, when Couillard handed the pontiff an invitation to visit Quebec in 2017 — Montreal's 375th anniversary.