Protectionist rhetoric in U.S. campaign worries Latin Americans

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s protectionist talk is causing deep concern in Latin America, finance ministers from the region said during a conference in Washington.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s protectionist talk is causing deep concern in Latin America, finance ministers from the region said during a conference in Washington.

“Of course, we see a risk” in Trump’s proposals, Argentina’s Alfonso Prat-Gay said at the close of the 8th Meeting of Finance Ministers of the Americas and the Caribbean, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.

Protectionist rhetoric in the U.S. campaign is a cause for concern regardless of whether Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the Nov. 8 election, the minister said.

Trump has promised to raise tariffs on imports from Mexico to 35 percent and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, that links the U.S., Mexican and Canadian economies.

He also objects to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which involves the United States and 11 other nations, including Peru, Chile and Mexico.

That accord has been signed, but its prospects for ratification in the U.S. Senate are clouded and Clinton, who long supported the TPP, now says she would not approve it in its current form.

The conference of ministers from 22 Latin American and Caribbean countries was joined by IADB President Luis Alberto Moreno; International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde; World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Paraguayan Finance Minister Santiago Peña said that “these risks are always present beyond the elections in the United States.”

“In our countries, there are always sectors more resistant to these integration processes who fear what they might imply,” he said. “We need to have a more pragmatic and less ideological approach to trade agreements.”

The IADB’s Moreno pointed out that, after two years of economic contraction in Latin America, the region’s exports dropped nearly 14 percent in 2015, while this year has brought a decline in both the volume and value of foreign sales.

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