President Barack Obama said Saturday he expects President-elect Donald Trump to maintain his administration’s policies in Latin America, including the re-establishment of U.S. relations with Cuba.
Mr. Obama, speaking at a town-hall event with young people in Peru, said Mr. Trump is likely to make changes on U.S. trade policy. But he played down the significance of those changes.
“With respect to Latin America, I don’t anticipate major changes in policy from the new administration,” Mr. Obama said.
But, he added: “there are going to be tensions that arise, probably around trade more than anything else, because the president-elect campaigned on looking at every trade policy and potentially reversing those.”
Yet Mr. Obama said he believes once Mr. Trump’s team reviews those trade policies, he expects those officials will see they are “actually working” and only make “modifications.”
“How you campaign isn’t always how you govern,” Mr. Obama said. “Sometimes, when you campaign, you’re trying to stir up passions. When you’re governing, you’re trying to think of, ‘how do I make this work?’ ”
During his campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The U.S. president met Saturday in Peru with the leaders of Asian countries that are part of the TPP, a trade pact his aides concede won’t be ratified by Congress before he leaves office. TPP was one of the top foreign-policy initiatives of Mr. Obama’s second term and the linchpin of his Asia policy. He prodded many of Asia’s leaders to take on domestic political risk to support the pact.
Mr. Obama thanked the TPP leaders for coming and said he looks forward to a constructive Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, meeting.
“There will be some uncomfortable conversations with other foreign leaders that the president will have,” said Scott Miller, a trade expert and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The deal doesn’t include China. Mr. Obama will hold his final meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the gathering, though no major policy initiatives are expected to come out of that meeting. But Mr. Xi could be the key to ensuring Mr. Trump doesn’t pull the U.S. out of the international climate-change agreement world leaders reached last year in Paris.
The U.S. and China were the anchors of the deal, pledging big commitments in 2014 that brought other countries to the table. It could fall to China to try to persuade Mr. Trump to keep the U.S. in the deal.
The meetings are taking place on the sidelines of a gathering of nations that are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC.
The White House isn’t planning a meeting with Mr. Putin, either formal or informal. But an encounter is possible, and it would be the first since Mr. Obama’s administration accused Mr. Putin’s government of using cyberattacks to try to influence the U.S. election.
Russia has denied the accusation. Earlier this week Mr. Obama said, “there has been very clear proof that they have engaged in cyberattacks.”
On Saturday Mr. Obama also plans to hold a town hall-style question-and-answer session with young people from Peru.
Mr. Obama’s last trip to Latin America was expected to celebrate policies that are popular in the region, such as the U.S.’s opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba, analysts say. But now much of the discussion will center around Mr. Trump’s policies toward the region.
“Obama was hoping to end his presidency on a high note, but with Trump’s stunning upset and widespread uncertainty about what’s to come, the mood will be far from celebratory,” said Michael Shifter, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “Some of Obama’s [Latin American] legacy, including the thaw with Cuba, could be at risk.”