China’s leader warns against rise of protectionism

LIMA, Peru (AP) — China’s president made an impassioned call against protectionism at a summit of Asian-Pacific leaders on Saturday as Chinese state media blasted Donald Trump for trade-bashing that it said could drag the world into “deeper economic distress.”

Speaking at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Peru, President Xi Jinping forcefully backed the creation of a free trade area encompassing all 21 countries in the group.

Xi’s remarks come as world leaders are on edge over Trump’s campaign pledges to protect U.S. jobs by backing out of the not-yet-implemented 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

On Saturday, Chinese state media warned Trump’s “trade-bashing” rhetoric represents a threat to global economic stability.

“The billionaire-turned-politician needs to prove that derailing the global economy has not been one of the reasons why he ran for U.S. president,” official Xinhua news agency said.

Xi, in his speech to business leaders, avoided any mention of the incoming U.S. president. But he did warn that protectionism is on the rise, endangering the progress made over the past two decades lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

He also took a veiled stab at the TPP, which excludes China and is widely seen as an attempt to reassert U.S. presence in Asia.

“Closed and inclusive arrangements are not the right choice,” Xi said. “Building a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific is a strategic initiative critical for the long-term prosperity of the Asia-Pacific.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier addressed the group and urged world leaders to help get more people online, saying it will help reduce income inequality and improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

He called for them to commit to work with companies like his to create the infrastructure that will allow more people to have access to the internet.

About half the world can’t get online either because they have no access to a network can’t afford it or don’t appreciate the benefits, he said.

“If we can connect the 4 billion people who aren’t connected we can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty,” he said.