Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Peru and Columbia vow to stand with Mexico after row with Trump

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LIMA (Reuters) – Peru and Colombia vowed to stand with Mexico as the country faces an uncertain economic future and grapples with a crisis with the United States just days into U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said members of the Latin American trade bloc the Pacific Alliance must double down on efforts to open markets and strengthen ties as they navigate the “turbulent waters” of protectionist rhetoric.

Peru, Colombia, Chile and Mexico formed the Pacific Alliance in 2011 to remove obstacles to trade and orient their markets to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.

“Right now one of us is facing serious difficulties that are not of its own making,” Kuczynski said in reference to Mexico as he sat beside his Colombian counterpart on an official visit. “We have to stand together on our ideals, on global trade which has done us so much good.”

Though Kuczynski did not mention Trump by name, his comments were some of the first rumblings of displeasure with the Trump administration from traditional U.S. allies in Latin America.

Trump has insisted he will force Mexico to pay for a wall between the two countries to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking. He has also threatened to slap taxes on Mexican imports and tear up the regional trade deal NAFTA if he cannot renegotiate it to ensure more benefits for the United States.

The Mexican peso has been rocked by tensions between the two countries, firming on Friday after Trump said he had a friendly phone call with Mexican President Pena Nieto.

“There are clouds of uncertainty around the world,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said. “We want to join the call of countries that adhere to the principles that have been so good for the world: free trade, respect for treaties… multilateral solutions.”

Santos said he spoke with Pena Nieto by phone on Thursday, when the Mexican leader announced he canceled a meeting with Trump as a diplomatic crisis over the proposed wall deepened.

Kuczynski, a former investment banker who spent years living in the United States, said the four countries in the Pacific Alliance represent a market of some 200 million people and that each has emerged from economic crisis in the past by opening markets to global trade.

“Of course there are costs to global trade, of course there are job losses, but it’s also clear that the benefits are bigger,” Kuczynski said.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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