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Harper to push free trade in Latin America

The perks of being Canada’s prime minister. On Friday, Stephen Harper will travel to the tropical island of Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas. It’s unlikely he’ll have time to work on his sorely needed tan, though, as he’ll be meeting with 34 Latin American leaders (and Barack Obama) to discuss a host of issues, including the Canadian favourite: protectionism.
Harper spokesperson Dimitri Soudas has said that the PM’s main talking points will be centered around free trade.

Our focus for the Summit of the Americas will be about free trade and avoiding other countries moving back to protectionist measures. Canada’s position is we must not allow the impact of the (current economic) crisis to reverse the hard-fought progress to freer trade and investment.

A senior government official, who spoke to the Financial Post, adds to that, saying: “We believe that opening markets and opening investment regimes in a responsible manner will speed up economic recovery to the benefit of our population and theirs.”
TD economist Craig Alexander told me that the protectionist pitch should resonate well with Latin American countries, even though many of them have left-leaning governments.
Says Alexander:”While some countries might have inclinations toward protectionism in their domestic policies, they don’t want to see protectionist measures being introduced in the developed world that would hurt them.”
He points out that many of these countries are export dependent, so restrictive importing measures could be damaging to a number of Latin American economies.
Like at the G20, Harper’s best move is to push the idea that trade barriers will hurt everyone. And, it’s apparent from his spokesperson’s comments, that’s what he’s going to say.