Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto has told the APEC summit he wants a 'new era' in ties with the USA despite the hostile tone of President-elect Donald Trump. China has called for a bigger role for APEC.
The Mexican president (photo) described his country's relationship with the United States as "central," telling the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima, Peru, that his country was a "fervent believer" in open ties, including trade.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump, before his election win, had threatened to drop the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - covering Mexico, the US and Canada - claiming it had sent US jobs to countries with cheaper labor. He also wanted a US border wall paid for by Mexico to keep migrants out.
Pena Nieto told fellow APEC leaders that US-Mexico trade ran at $1 million (942,000 euros) every minute.
Mexico, like the rest of the world, was "prioritizing dialog" to deal with Trump's incoming administration, Pena Nieto said, signaling a readiness to renegotiate aspects of NAFTA.
APEC participants in 'despair'
Officials around US President Barack Obama, who is also in Lima, have tried to reassure APEC leaders that once inaugurated, Trump would not abandon long-standing US links with the rest the world.
Obama's National Security Advisor Susan Rice said it was "manifestly" in the United States' interests that multiple alliances with Asia and Pacific would endure.
Visiting New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said, however, he sensed "tremendous despair" among summit participants about Trump's isolationist stance.
The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - agreed to by Obama, but without US congressional approval - could still be saved, Key said, by crafting a more limited pact among willing signatories, but leaving out Washington.
Similarly, Asian economics expert Mathew Goodman predicted "a real blow to US interests, economically and strategically," and a TPP kept alive without America.
Robert Lawrence, a trade expert at Harvard University, said a protectionist USA would be "hugely disruptive for the world."
I don't think that the trade part of his program is going to do much for the American workers who he claims to want to help," Lawrence said.
A role for China
Chinese President Xi Jinping told business leaders at the summit that the 21-nation APEC forum should have a "bigger role" in world affairs.
Also present in Lima, China's President Xi Jinping decried protectionism, saying his country had contributed 40 percent of global growth since the world's 2008 financial crisis.
Partner nations stood to earn billions, Xi predicted, as China invested abroad and 700 million Chinese tourists fanned out across the globe in coming years.
"The Asia-Pacific should take a bigger role and also to be at the driver's seat to link all the related partners and ... also find a new way for global economic development," Xi said.
Beijing is pushing an APEC-wide Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which would exclude the US.
On Friday, indigenous protestors from the Amazon region gathered in Lima to protest what they called the detrimental impact of free trade agreements on their communities.
APEC nations represent nearly 40 percent of the world's population and 60 percent of the world's economy.
ipj/jm (dpa, AFP, AP)