Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on fellow world leaders to make a commitment to open economies and free trade at the APEC Summit in Peru, after failing in his bid to make the point to the US president-elect in New York.
It has emerged that Mr Turnbull tried to secure a meeting with Donald Trump at his headquarters in New York on the way to Lima, but was unsuccessful.
“We’ve certainly had discussions about having an earlier meeting,” Mr Turnbull told reporters on his arrival for the APEC Summit.
“But, it hasn’t been possible to schedule one on the way to — and certainly not on the way back. I will be missing a day of Parliament in any event and I think that’s one day enough.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did pay a visit to the president-elect at Trump Towers on his way to APEC, and US media reports said the pair discussed trade and security policy.
Mr Trump looms large over the APEC Summit because of his campaign statements about waging “trade wars” to re-strengthen the American economy.
Mr Turnbull is extolling the benefits of free trade at APEC and urging a drift away from protectionism which he says is “the way to poverty”.
However, he is treading a careful line by avoiding any direct criticism of the president-elect.
“It’s not for me to speak for Donald Trump, but what he has said is he wants America to have better trade deals, well, he is entitled to argue for that,” the PM said.
“It’s not for me to tell other countries what to do. I’m here for Australia.
“I’ll leave it to Mr Trump when he is president of the US to advocate the interests of the United States, my job as prime minister is to look after Australia’s interests.”
Turnbull attacks Shorten for ‘demonising free trade’
While emphasising to fellow APEC leaders his commitment to free trade, Mr Turnbull also re-entered the domestic political fray in Australia accusing the Opposition leader of pursuing “a cynical short-term political sugar hit” in his push this week to restrict the number of foreign guest workers entering Australia on 457 visas.
“APEC was Bob Hawke’s idea and full marks to him. It tells you a lot about what has happened to the ALP [that] … his successor Bill Shorten is now demonising free trade and open markets,” he said.
On his first day in Peru, Mr Turnbull visited a boutique hotel and a cafe, both run by Australians or former residents, to illustrate the benefits of free movement of investment and entrepreneurs across borders.
He then entered sideline talks at the APEC Summit, starting with the Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
Mr Kuczynski has urged all leaders to “deliver a very strong message at this APEC”.
“It will be difficult to do, because APEC is not just one or two countries. It’s 21 countries. But we have to deliver an unequivocal message to the world,” he said.