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Asia leaders defend trade deals despite Trump stance

Anti-TPP protesters in Peru Image copyright AP

Asia-Pacific leaders have said they will pursue free trade deals despite Donald Trump's US election victory.

During the campaign, Mr Trump called for greater protection for US jobs and said he would tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership - the biggest multinational trade deal in years.

But after a two-day summit in Peru, leaders defended the benefits of open markets.

China also claimed growing support for a wider 21-nation trade deal it backs.

In a communiqué at the end of the summit the Apec leaders said: "We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism."

It also referred to the "rising scepticism over trade", after the uneven recovery since the financial crisis had caused more people to question whether globalisation worked for enough people.

Is the TPP dead?

But the leaders said that the "the benefits of trade and open markets need to be communicated to the wider public more effectively, emphasising how trade promotes innovation, employment and higher living standards".

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

US election leaves questions for Apec

The TPP pact involves 12 countries: the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

The pact aims to deepen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Obama says the US should not walk away from the TPP

But Donald Trump said the proposal was a "terrible deal" that would send American jobs to countries with cheaper labour.

The agreement must by ratified in the US Congress, which remains in the hands of Mr Trump's Republican party - meaning it's expected to fail.

Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump's election rival, had also opposed it.

But after the Apec meeting, US President Barack Obama reiterated his support for the pact, saying not going ahead would undermine the US position across Asia Pacific.

He warned he was already hearing calls for a less ambitious trade agreement that would exclude US workers and businesses.

"When it comes to trade, I believe the answer is not to pull back," he said. "The answer is to do trade right, making sure it has strong labour standards, strong environmental standards, that it addresses ways in which workers and ordinary people can benefit rather than be harmed by global trade.''

But while some leaders think the TPP could go ahead without the US, others say it would be impossible without a complete renegotiation.

Over the weekend, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key suggested there could be minor changes to the agreement that would give Mr Trump enough wiggle room to support it, without losing face.

Meanwhile Peru's president Pedro Pablo said the TPP should not be written off, despite Mr Trump's win.

What's the alternative?

China - which is not part of the TPP - has set out an alternative vision for regional trade.

China's proposal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), does not include the Americas.

After the Apec meeting, Beijing said several nations including Peru and Chile had expressed interest in joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

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