BAVARO, Dominican Republic – A summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders began Tuesday in the Dominican Republic with a call to establish mechanisms against the protectionist measures expected from U.S. President Donald Trump.
The relationship between the region and the new U.S. administration wasn't on the original agenda of the gathering of leaders from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States but Trump's pledges to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and to crack down on migration dominated the discourse.
Host President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic expressed concern about the appearance of the "ghost of protectionism and the resulting trade wars."
"We are worried by the growing discourse of protectionism and the closing of borders that is not limited to the economic sphere but which could also seriously affect our migrant populations," Medina said at the opening of the summit of the 33-nation grouping, which took place days after Trump took office.
Other leaders expressed concerns about Latin American migrants to the United States.
In addition to trade protectionism, "we have to protect ourselves from other things: the persecution of migrants," said Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.
Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales said Trump's policies are motive for a debate and we "came to share our experiences."
Cuban President Raul Castro was in attendance, while Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled without providing details.
At the summit, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean urged the region's countries to set up mechanisms against any possible protectionist measures adopted by the new U.S. president.
"Faced with this uncertainty, I think that regional integration is more necessary than ever," said Alicia Barcena, the executive secretary of the commission.
Trump's promises to review trade pacts, deport migrants and build a wall along with border with Mexico have been greeted with alarm in much of Latin America.