Prime Minister Stephen Harper has marked the start of Chinese New Year by saying his government is putting a big emphasis on boosting trade ties with the Asian economic powerhouse.

Harper dotted the eyes of two ceremonial dragons in a gala dinner ceremony in Toronto put on by a Chinese-Canadian business group on Saturday.

He told the crowd of several hundred businesspeople the federal government will focus in the next year on expanding trade in Asian markets such as China.

Harper says while Ottawa has signed a foreign-investment deal with China, “there is still much room to grow” with what is Canada’s second-largest trading partner.

He also told the crowd that Chinese-Canadian businesses will be among the winners of increased trade with China.

Harper also took a moment to honour Canadian Olympic skiers Justine Dufour-Lapointe and her sister Chloe for picking up gold and silver medals in women’s moguls at the Sochi Olympics.