It is clear that Harper is a cheerleader for global capital. It remains to be seen whether Obama will be any different. Although he talked about re-opening NAFTA during his campaign and there is mention of this as well on his website he has appointed an avid free trader as head of his economic team. Protectionism seems to be growing in the US as is natural in a period of job loss and economic downturn but it is questionable how much this will translate into policy. Global capital is worried about the growth of protectionism not so much as it relates to economic growth, the official reason, but to the growth of profit.
Harper to promote free trade at APEC summit
Bush meeting with leaders at his last international summit
Last Updated: Friday, November 21, 2008 8:22 AM ET
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to tout free trade as an antidote to the global economic crisis when he attends the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Peru this weekend.
Free and open markets are the best way to ensure the global economy rebounds quickly, according to Harper, who departs for Lima on Friday morning.
Senior officials have said APEC leaders will be using the meeting as an opportunity to follow up on last week's G20 meeting in Washington, DC.
"My colleagues as well as myself recognize the importance of this particular moment of time, the importance of being able to follow up on the Washington declaration," said Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, who is also attending the meetings.
While the APEC countries are expected to sign on to the G20 action plan, which created a 47-point strategy that endorsed new safeguards for the global financial system, some analysts said Asian nations lectured a decade ago when they were embroiled in the Asian currency crisis may be critical of proposals.
Tom d'Aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, said APEC leaders must push hard to keep markets open.
"The worst thing in the world at a time of great difficulty would be if people would try to build up barriers and fortresses against direct foreign investment or the openness of international trade," d'Aquino said.
Leaders are expected to discuss a regional free-trade zone between the group's 21 members. Canada is also studying regional economic integration with eight of the member nations.
APEC members are also expected to endorse a new commitment to wrap up the broad outline of an agreement on the current round of global trade talks, known as the Doha Round, by the end of December.
However, analysts said it was highly unlikely that goal would be met since many nations will be holding back on their negotiating offers, waiting for U.S. president-elect Barack Obama to take office.
"It's not necessarily a good time to be talking about new trade agreements and trade expansion because a lot of people associate that with economic uncertainty, the potential for job losses and such," said Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Council of the Americas in Washington.
President George W. Bush will also be attending the meetings, his last international summit, holding a series of one-on-one talks with other countries before the meeting begins.
Bush is reportedly hoping that the APEC countries will promise not to raise new economic barriers to trade over the next year.With files from the Associated Press