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Apec ministers fear threat to free trade as Trump presidency looms, Hong Kong commerce chief says in Lima

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So tells foreign counterparts city serves as prime example of success as result of free trade

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 9:38am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 10:11pm

Trade ministers from all Apec economies have unanimously voiced their concerns over anti-trade policy agendas in the wake of US president-elect Donald Trump’s recent victory, Hong Kong’s commerce secretary said in Peru.

Hong Kong served as a prime example of success as a result of free trade, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung told his counterparts from the 20 other economies under the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

“All participating representatives unanimously support the push for free trade, expressing concern over anti-globalisation and trade protective measures,” So said.

Trump, trade and the TPP: what to expect at the Apec summit in Peru

Peru’s foreign affairs minister Ricardo Luna said: “Challenges are becoming clearer. Instability, economic reduction, environmental degradation, urgent protectionist trends and high levels of inequality emerge as challenges that we are facing today.”

Worries over the future of regional free trade were heightened after the election of Trump, who has vowed to adopt an isolationist approach and to stop the US from signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal with Asia-Pacific allies.

China eyes regional trade deal void left by Trump’s win

The Apec summit in Lima coincides with Trump’s meeting in New York with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, the Republican president-elect’s first meeting with a foreign leader. Abe is expected to call on Trump to recognise the importance of free trade, especially between America and its primary Asian ally.

With the TPP likely dead, Apec economies are studying an alternative – the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific – a report on which is scheduled to be tabled next year, So said.

He refused to say if Trump’s policy stance had accelerated the process. Trump’s predecessor, incumbent US president Barack Obama, is expected to arrive in Lima on Friday local time.

Stuart Lau is reporting from Lima