Saturday, November 22, 2008

Leaders meet in Peru for crisis talks

This is from the Star.
Harper and Hu Jintao share the view that human rights must take second place to trade! Harper has no qualms it seems about signing a deal with a country that has a reputation for violating human rights especially with respect to labor activists. China is actively enlarging its trading relationships with South American countries and beginning to compete for political influence with the United States.

Leaders meet in Peru for crisis talks
How Pacific trading partners compare
China increases influence at Asia-Pacific summit, where focus is on ways to keep world trade flowing
Nov 22, 2008 04:30 AM
. Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist
LIMA–In a former military torture centre guarded by heavily armed police, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and leaders from 20 other Asia-Pacific economies embark today on stage two of a concerted international effort to prevent global economic collapse.
Stage one occurred last weekend in Washington when the heads of a separate but overlapping group known as the G20 agreed on the need to stimulate the battered world economy.
This weekend's session of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum is expected to continue that work by focusing on ways to keep world trade flowing.
To underscore that point, Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe met last night in a hastily arranged get-together at a downtown hotel to officially sign a free-trade agreement between their two countries.
That the APEC leaders meet today in Lima's ministry of defence compound where, according to Peruvian prosecutors, military interrogators once tortured and killed suspected rebels, is but one of the ironies of this summit.
The other is that big countries like Canada and the U.S. now depend on developing nations like Peru to help extricate the world from the deepening economic crisis.
In two days of meetings, Harper and U.S. President George W. Bush will share the stage not only with the Japanese, Russians and Chinese, but with leaders from Vietnam and impoverished Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific country once renowned for cargo cults and headhunters.
But there is a subtext to this summit. And that is the new role of China in a continent that was once America's private preserve.
China is making a full-court press at Lima. Its official press is providing breathless, minute-by-minute coverage of the event.
Beijing has even donated 63 cars to ferry leaders and their aides around Lima.
Already, China is Chile's biggest and Costa Rica's second-biggest trading partner.
Chinese President Hu Jintao's travels this week highlight the growing influence that this once isolated nation now wields in Latin America.
Last Saturday, Hu was in Washington at the G20 meeting, seated in a place of honour at Bush's side.
Then it was off to Costa Rica for a first-ever state visit to Central America, followed by a trip to Cuba to cement old socialist ties before flying to Lima where Hu is expected to sign a free-trade pact with Peruvian President Alan Garcia.
"China is clearly seeking to establish its leadership in regional or transregional economic governance before it goes to global governance ... and the inevitable challenge to/confrontation with the United States and Europe that this would involve," University of Toronto political scientist John Kirton noted in an email.
York University political scientist Gregory Chin says China has successfully used what he calls its multiple identities to increase its influence.
On the one hand, it is a developing nation, a charter member of what former Chinese leader Mao Zedong labelled the third world. Yet on the other, it is the globe's workshop, a major power whose economy is expected to soon exceed Japan's.
Only recently, says Chin, have Canada and the U.S. "woken up and realized what has been going on in their hemisphere while they were focusing on the war on terror and Iraq/Afghanistan."
As part of that wake-up, Canada has been busy signing free-trade deals with anyone it can – including Colombia (which isn't a member of APEC).
A Canada-Chile free-trade pact has been in place for 10 years. A more recent Canada-Peru deal is expected to be operational next year.
Critics have argued that Canada should follow the lead of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama and delay any deal with Colombia until that nation's government, which has a history of murdering trade unionists and others that it deems undesirable, cleans up its act.
But with the world economy going into a tailspin, human rights concerns are receiving shorter shrift.
Besides, Canadian officials said yesterday, the Colombians have promised in a separate side deal to respect labour rights.

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