11/04/2014 11:28 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST

Francois Hollande Says France-Quebec Relationship 'Unique'

QUEBEC - French President Francois Hollande came out in favour Tuesday of a special "business visa" he hopes would strengthen ties between Quebec and his country.

On the last day of his Canadian trip, Hollande told a few dozen business officials that bureaucracy should be streamlined on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Simplifying things is good everywhere, including employers' groups and businesses," he said alongside Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

"We must do more so that information moves around. Many small- and medium-sized companies want access to markets."

Hollande also urged for a speedy ratification of the free-trade deal between Canada and the European Union that was reached more than a year ago.

He reminded his audience that 400 French companies do business in Quebec and employ 130,000 people.

The 150-odd Quebec firms in France have more than 20,000 employees, Couillard said.

The premier was open to the idea of a "business visa" but said Quebec would have to discuss the matter with the federal government, which is involved in the jurisdiction.

"On principle, we support the idea."

Couillard noted the ties between the two jurisdictions have expanded in recent years.

"It's a relationship that's been dear to our hearts for many years now," he said. "It started around language and culture and then evolved around the economy, business and economic development.

"It's a special privileged relationship that we cherish and we want to develop further."

Earlier, in Quebec City, Hollande described the ties between Quebec and his country as "unique."

"Through history, you are, and always will be, our brothers," he said in an address to the national assembly.

"If we're looking for words to describe the relationship between France and Quebec, I would choose the simplest word. This relationship is 'unique,' the word forged over years of history."

He told the legislature he wanted to hail the memory of two Canadian soldiers who were killed last month — one in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., on Oct. 20 and the other in Ottawa two days later.

"My thoughts go out to the families and to authorities in Quebec and Canada," he said.

"I know what terrorism is. France has had to face such ordeals, both beyond its borders and at home.

"Confronted with terrorism, we must show constant firmness and an invincible attachment to democracy, freedom and human dignity."

Hollande addressed the Commons in Ottawa on Monday and later served notice he wants to see Canada taking an active role in helping the world achieve a major climate change agreement well in advance of a summit he will host in Paris in December 2015.

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