Peru president, APEC host, warns of threats to free trade


LIMA, Peru (AP) — The U.S. presidential election is a sign of growing hostility to free trade that threatens the global economy, the president of Peru warned Friday as he opened an Asian-Pacific summit hosted by his nation.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski told delegates gathering in Lima for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum that global trade already stopped growing in the last two years and would get much worse if nations close off their economies.

“It is fundamental that world trade grow again and that protectionism be defeated,” Kuczynski said.

The Peruvian president cited the recent U.S. election, though he did not specifically mention U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who pledged to overhaul the country’s trade policy and tear up trade agreements such as NAFTA or the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Kuczynski, a U.S.-trained economist and former investment fund manager who took office this year, also cited the vote in June by Britain to leave the European Union as evidence that “protectionist tendencies are taking over” in the world.

“And for anyone who wants to promote protection I suggest they read an economic history of the 1930s,” he said, a reference to the Great Depression that many argue was aggravated by protectionist policies.

APEC has brought more than 1,000 delegates from 21 countries, representing nearly 40 percent of the world’s population, to Lima for a forum aimed at easing global commerce. U.S. President Barack Obama was expected to arrive late Friday for his last international summit before leaving office in January. Also expected were Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Obama had been expected to promote the TPP, which would have included 12 members of APEC but not China. That trade pact is now considered politically dead because of Trump’s victory. The Chinese president is expected to seek support for an alternate agreement backed by his country that would include all 21 countries in the organization.

APEC ministers, meeting ahead of the leaders’ summit, endorsed a study of the Chinese-backed plan and called for further talks in a joint statement issued Friday that also echoed concerns about protectionism. “Faced with rising skepticism over trade and stagnated trade growth, we reiterate our commitment to build an open economy in the Asia-Pacific,” it said.

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