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Trump elephant in the room at APEC

AAP logoAAP 16/11/2016 Lisa Martin

Malcolm Turnbull joins 20 other Asia-Pacific leaders for talks in Peru this weekend amid the spectre of a Donald Trump presidency.

The US-president elect won't be at the APEC leaders summit but his presence will be keenly felt especially around any discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"Everyone will be talking about it, no doubt about that," the prime minister said, ahead of leaving Sydney for the summit on Thursday.

"It was the election of a new president in the United States - a momentous decision for the United States and for the whole world."

Mr Trump is expected to deliver the last rites to the controversial 12-country free trade pact after his inauguration in mid-January.

That won't stop Mr Turnbull lobbying the US to ratify the TPP, with an argument the deal is in the superpower's strategic and economic interest.

The prime minister said the APEC leaders would focus on breaking down trade barriers.

"The focus at APEC will be on ensuring we maintain that strong economic growth and we maintain a commitment to open markets, to trade."

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, who has arrived in Lima, says it's important not to pre-empt the outcome of the so-called lame duck period of President Barack Obama between now and the inauguration.

"President-elect Trump is not yet in the White House and we don't have a lot of flesh on the bones of his trade policy," Mr Ciobo told AAP.

This year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit marks the first major meeting of global leaders since Mr Trump's victory.

It will be Mr Obama's last hurrah at an international summit.

Mr Trump won't be in attendance but he will be the elephant in the room.

The president-elect has flagged a shake-up of US foreign policy and the possibility Washington may backtrack on the Obama administration's pivot to Asia.

During the election campaign he flagged the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea and Japan if the two countries didn't stump up more cash to support security alliances.

The world also faces the prospect of a trade war between the Washington and Beijing, with Mr Trump threatening to slap a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese imports.

With the TPP looking increasingly unlikely, leaders will turn their attention to negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal which includes China and India but excludes the US.

There will also be a focus on a moves towards an Asia-Pacific free trade area.

A study of potential economic social benefits and costs has been completed and leaders are set to agree to recommendations for the next steps.

It's understood Australia is not looking to lock in a specific timeline on progress but wants to continue talks.

Canberra views the TPP and RCEP as building blocks towards an Asia-Pacific free trade area.

Discussions will also focus on liberalisation of services and the need for countries to undertake domestic reform on competition policy.

There will also be a strategic dimension to talks on the sidelines such as the South China Sea and efforts to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

China and Russia are APEC members.

Mr Turnbull is expected to have bilateral talks with leaders from Southeast Asia and central and south America.

He also might get the chance to rub shoulders with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who is participating in the business summit of chief executives.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will be a notable absentee at APEC because of an influence-peddling scandal that has rocked her administration.

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