Obama to reassure leaders in Peru on successor’s presidency

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U.S. President Barack Obama waves during his meeting with Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTSSE7C

U.S. President Barack Obama waves during his meeting with Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque – RTSSE7C

LIMA, Peru — President Barack Obama is wrapping up a three-country, post-U.S. election tour the same way it began: by trying to reassure leaders from around the world that U.S. democracy isn’t broken and everything will be fine when Republican Donald Trump succeeds him next year.

Obama is in Lima for a final appearance at an annual Asia-Pacific summit.

But global concerns about Trump’s pending ascension to the world’s most powerful office after a surprise win in last week’s presidential election were expected to be a key topic during Obama’s meetings Saturday and Sunday. The Trump issue overshadowed the president’s interactions with world leaders during his earlier stops this week in Greece and Germany.

Trump opened what was an unlikely presidential bid by blasting Mexicans as criminals and rapists, and vowing to build a wall along the Mexico border to keep them and other Latinos from entering the U.S. illegally. During the campaign, he rattled U.S. allies by questioning the value of multinational organizations like NATO, and he opposed international trade deals, including a pending Pacific trade pact that Obama negotiated with 11 other countries.

Since Obama opened the final foreign trip of his presidency with a stop in Greece on Tuesday, he has tried to reassure his counterparts that the U.S. will uphold its partnerships and obligations despite the divisive rhetoric of a campaign that ended with the election of a real estate mogul and reality TV star with no political or government experience.

Obama probably offered additional reassurance during his meeting Saturday with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who took office as Peru’s president earlier this year. The leaders made no public comments as they appeared before a contingent of U.S. and Peruvian news media.

On Friday, before Obama’s late-night arrival in Peru’s oceanfront capital, Kuczynski warned that the U.S. presidential election is a sign of intensifying hostility toward free trade that threatens the global economy. He told delegates gathering for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum that global trade had stopped growing in the past two years, and would only worsen if nations wall off their economies.

“It is fundamental that world trade grow again and that protectionism be defeated,” said Kuczynski, who did not mention Trump by name.

Obama has argued for some time that globalization is here to stay and governments must address fears about what the changing economics mean for them.

Obama was also meeting Saturday with leaders of 11 APEC countries that joined the U.S. to negotiate the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Trump opposes. The agreement appears all but dead in the U.S., given that top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have said lawmakers will not vote on it before they adjourn for the year.

Obama supports international trade deals as a way both to boost U.S. exports and create jobs domestically. The Pacific deal was a key component of his strategy to “pivot” U.S. policy toward Asia to take advantage of the region’s fast-growing marketplaces and, at the same time, to create a counterweight to China’s growing influence in the region.

Trump leveled harsh criticism at China during the election, threatening the Asian powerhouse with hefty import tariffs over alleged trade and currency violations. Obama was also holding talks Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, one of many world leaders who spoke with President-elect Trump in recent days.

Trump’s team said he told Xi during their telephone conversation that he believes they will have one of the “strongest relationships for both countries moving forward.” Xi told Trump that cooperation between the world’s two biggest economies was necessary.

The White House said Obama wants to review progress the two presidents have made on a range of issues.

Obama has carved out time in between meetings for one of the staples of his overseas travels: a town hall-style forum with the region’s future leaders.

He also was attending a dinner welcoming leaders from APEC’s 21-member countries.

Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report.

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