Obama Is Facing Hurdles in Peru as Clock Ticks on Term

U.S. president meeting with leaders of Asian countries that are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Obama arrived in Peru late Friday on the final foreign visit of his eight-year presidency.
President Obama arrived in Peru late Friday on the final foreign visit of his eight-year presidency. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Updated Nov. 19, 2016 10:01 a.m. ET

LIMA, Peru—President Barack Obama confronts lingering challenges to his limited time in office as he wraps up a foreign trip here this weekend, including a troubled trade pact with Asia and a possible encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Obama, as he has at stops earlier this week, also will be forced to answer questions about the election of Donald Trump, particularly his criticism of trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Nafta.

The U.S. president meets 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.

“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, like 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.”

Write to Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com and Ryan Dube at ryan.dube@dowjones.com



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