Trudeau sidesteps quip about protectionist Trump at APEC summit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was to hold informal talks on Sunday with U.S. President Barack Obama at the APEC summit in Peru — a gathering of leaders who are largely focused on free trade, but also on the absent U.S. president-elect, who is seen as protectionist.

The issue of Trump and trade briefly arose when Trudeau attended a breakfast meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who quipped, “Lots to talk about, big political changes in your neighbourhood I hear.”

To that, Trudeau responded, “Yes that might come up, but mostly we want to talk about ways we continue to work together.”

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Even though Donald Trump was not at the APEC summit, his upcoming presidency was the subject of informal chatter. At a breakfast meeting, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, joked to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about ‘big political changes in your neighbourhood.’ (CBC)

Trudeau, as he has throughout this trip, did his best to change the topic of Donald Trump. He has taken the public position that there’s little point in speculating about which campaign promises Trump will actually carry out until he takes office as the 45th U.S. president on Jan. 20.

The Australian and Canadian leaders “affirmed their commitment to support free and open trade,” a statement from Trudeau’s office said.

“They welcomed the ongoing cooperation between Australia and Canada and explored ways to enhance governmental exchanges, commercial ties, security cooperation, defence ties, and youth mobility.  The prime ministers discussed global issues, including regional security, counter-terrorism and migration,” the statement said.

Trudeau and leaders from 20 other Asia and Pacific nations have been looking at ways to put a softer face on trade in an effort to counter rising anti-globalization sentiments and what appears to be shaping up as U.S. trade protectionism.

Sunday’s closed-door meetings at the APEC leaders’ summit are a direct response to the anti-trade rhetoric coming out of the United States in the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory, and from Britain after its vote to leave the European Union.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) leaders at the APEC summit in Lima beside Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The executive director of the APEC secretariat says the leaders will try 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.

Alan Bollard says it’s easy to speak the words, but putting the idea into practice is quite complex.

That leaves Trudeau and the other leaders at the Lima summit with the difficult task of convincing Trump and his followers that trade can be good for domestic and global economies.

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

Trump, trade and the TPP dominate talks at APEC summit2:00

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland have met with their counterparts, U.S. congressional staffers and business leaders to tout Canada as a pro-trade government.

The focus of the summit has been on the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that would open up trade among 12 Pacific Rim nations encompassing nearly 40 per cent of the world’s GDP, including 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.

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.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto during the APEC summit on Saturday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Trudeau met with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto Saturday night where NAFTA and the TPP were to be 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.”

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