SANTIAGO – The presidents of Peru and Chile warned Wednesday of the risks of protectionism for their countries’ economies and pushed for greater regional integration and the opening of markets.
“What we’re seeing is a gray cloud approaching called protectionism, which was hidden and now has reappeared ... with the ‘Brexit’ and now ... with the US election,” said Peruvian leader Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Santiago at the National Business Meeting (Enade), Chile’s main business forum.
The Peruvian president analyzed the victory of Republican Donald Trump in the US election and the possibility of a round of protectionism implemented by the world’s largest economy.
He said that analysts who attribute Trump’s win to his promises to deal harshly with immigrants and his resurrection of fears about China are wrong.
Kuczynski said that technological progress in fields such as robotics applied to productive sectors have had a greater role.
“Anyone can go to a modern automobile factory and ... the only workers there are handling the computers,” said the Peruvian leader, warning that some industries will undergo radical changes in the coming years and countries had better prepare for that.
He noted that Peru and Chile are small countries far from the large international markets, adding that thus the Pacific Alliance – a trade bloc they belong to along with Colombia and Mexico – is a key tool they must “utilize” to push for greater trade.
Kuczynski, who on Wednesday wraps up his official visit to Chile, also reviewed at the Enade meeting his strategy to foster economic and social development in Peru, noting that the country cannot become modernized if 40 percent of the population is mired in poverty.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, meanwhile, in her remarks at the forum reaffirmed her commitment to open commerce, strengthening bilateral ties with Peru and regional integration.
She also emphasized her “full conviction” that economic protectionism “doesn’t do Chile or Peru or the world any good.”