The second day of an Asia-Pacific summit on free trade in Chile saw participants restate their broad commitment to free trade, but few fresh ideas seemed to be forthcoming.
Following President Donald Trump's death knell to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by removing the U.S. from the pact, a number of countries in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Chile's resort town of Vina del Mar to discuss the best way forward.
In a joint statement after two days of talks, representatives from the TPP countries “reiterated their firm commitment to collaborate in keeping markets open and to the free flow of goods, services and investment, advancing regional economic integration, and strengthening the rules-based international trading system, noting our concern with protectionism in many parts of the world.”
The delegations recalled “the strategic and economic significance of the TPP...as a key driver for regional economic integration and promoter of economic growth, competition, innovation and productivity.”
The commitment to free trade comes at a time when Latin American countries in the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru) stand at a crossroads. Chile and Peru have free-trade agreements (FTA) with China, Colombia began such talks in November and Mexico is anxious for Chinese investment, following a souring of relations with the U.S..
Different options have been mentioned, including Latin American nations participating in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) or the Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
The Pacific Alliance is also keen to be seen as a true partner on the international stage, with Chile's deputy trade minister, Paulina Nazal, stating Tuesday that “we are interested above all for the Pacific Alliance to position itself as a mechanism of integration for the region and as an agent of this integration in the Asia-Pacific.”