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Trudeau, APEC leaders look to put softer face on globalization to battle Trump

APEC leaders take part in a meeting during the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru, on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
November 20, 2016 - 11:30 AM

LIMA, Peru - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and leaders from 20 other Asian and Pacific nations were huddled in closed-door meetings Sunday, trying to come up with a plan to salvage world trade amidst rising anti-globalization sentiments.

Although he is not here at the APEC leaders' summit in Peru, Donald Trump's anti-trade rhetoric has shaken up the agenda of the meeting, particularly his threat to cancel a Pacific Rim trade pact that includes Canada.

At a breakfast meeting, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joked to Trudeau about "big political changes in your neighbourhood." Trudeau nodded and said "that might come up" during the subsequent closed-door session.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would open up trade among 12 nations encompassing nearly 40 per cent of the world's GDP, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan and the United States.

Trump has vowed to pull the U.S. out of the deal, a move that would effectively kill the agreement that U.S. President Barack Obama touted as a counterbalance to China's growing economic sway in the Asia-Pacific region.

During a closed-door session Saturday with TPP members, Obama urged them not to give up on the deal.

Leaders in the room voiced support for moving ahead with trade pact if the stars aligned in the coming months, and no country said it was ready to walk away from the agreement, according to international officials who were in the room, but not authorized to speak publicly about the talks.

Obama and Trudeau are scheduled to meet one-on-one Sunday afternoon as Obama sets to depart his last international summit as president before Trump takes over in January.

The executive director of the APEC secretariat said the goal for Sunday's meetings is for leaders to figure out how to implement what he calls "soft globalization" — another way of saying inclusive and sustainable growth that is the theme of this year's summit.

"I would expect Canada will have a bit to say about that," Alan Bollard said in an interview prior to the summit.

"We're trying to focus in on globalization and economic growth that is also inclusive and sustainable. That's easy to say, but it's quite complex to know what it can actually mean in terms of policy development."

Trudeau isn't scheduled to speak with reporters about his time at the summit until it officially wraps up this evening.

Trudeau has had closed-door meetings with other world leaders involved in trade deals with Canada during the APEC summit in the Peruvian capital. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland have also met with their counterparts, U.S. congressional staffers and business leaders to tout Canada as a pro-trade government.

Trump's threats to withdraw the United States' from global affairs has opened the door for China and Russia to push an Asian trade deal that would exclude the Americas.

China's president promised delegates at the conference that his country would continue to push for free trade deals in the region, saying countries needed to come closer together instead of being pulled further apart.

Xi Jinping vowed to give foreign investors more access to his country and to create pilot areas to test free trade in China.

Bollard says nations are also keeping a close eye on the future of the North American free trade deal because Trump has also taken aim at the pact, saying he wants a better deal from Canada and Mexico or else he'll move to kill NAFTA.

Trudeau met with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto Saturday night where NAFTA and the TPP were on the agenda.

Earlier Saturday at the summit, Pena Nieto said that NAFTA could be modernized to benefit Mexico and the United States.

"Let's modernize NAFTA so that it becomes a more powerful vehicle and a more modern vehicle that will truly allow us to consolidate our countries in this strategic partnership of Mexico and the United States and Canada," Pena Nieto said.

"A more productive region and more competitive region."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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