Peru hosts APEC summit
The 2008 Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit in Lima concluded on Sunday, and whatever may have been accomplished, it at least reflected well on the host country, Peru. There was some nervousness about a possible resurgence of political violence by extremist groups seeking to grab the spotlight, but no major incidents were reported. The summit went off without a hitch, which is a huge achievement for a country that was regarded as a hopelessly chaotic and wretched "basket case" two decades ago. APEC 2008 was held at the Ministry of Defense, in the massive block-shaped building known as "El Pentagonito," on the eastern side of Lima. The president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, expressed interest in joining APEC. The APEC 2007 summit was held in Sydney, Australia.
Leaders from twenty one countries spent most of their time discussing how to preserve an open system of international trade, as the economic recession raises pressure to adopt protectionist measures. The Pacific Rim leaders did, at least, issue a joint pledge to keep trade barriers among each other at a low level. Whether or not they actually live up to that pledge is another question, however. Leaders always face pressure from "The Base" to make sure that nobody loses their job. Assuring quality education, dealing with climactic change, and fighting corruption were also on the agenda. The Declaration of Lima urged member countries to address the social stress caused by globalization. Peru's President Alan Garcia met with President Bush, who conveyed his firm intention to fully implement the U.S.-Peruvian free trade agreement (which was signed one year ago) before he leaves office. See El Comercio of Peru.
While President Bush basked in the international limelight for perhaps the last time as president, everyone present was talking about his successor, Barack Obama. As the Washington Post reported, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon both warned Obama that his plans to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement would makes things worse, leading to more illegal immigration. Indeed! When it comes to foreign policy, new presidents have much less leeway than is commonly assumed, and in crisis situations such as at the present, the policy constraints are especially rigid. That is why foreign policy usually exhibits a great deal of continuity, as the campaign promises of the new administration are set aside for pragmatic reasons.