World

Protests mark Bush's arrival in Chile

Street protests greet U.S. President Bush's arrival at APEC forum in Chile, while Canada talks to South Korea about free trade pact

Street protests greeted U.S. President George W. Bush's arrival at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Chile Friday, while Canada talked to South Korea about a free trade pact.

Chilean police used water cannons and tear gas on thousands of people protesting against a meeting of Pacific Rim leaders in the capital Santiago de Chile.

Demonstrators were particularly vocal in denouncing Bush and his country's war in Iraq, but they were also opposed to globalization and unfettered free trade.

Organizers claimed 40,000 people took part in the protests, while police said about 25,000 turned out to demonstrate against the forum.

Talks at this time are focusing on trade and security.

There were no serious injuries reported on this fourth day of protests against the meeting, but television pictures showed demonstrators burning American flags and throwing rocks at the windows of a McDonald's restaurant.

There were thousands of officers on the streets of the city, and some 20 demonstrators were reportedly arrested.

Bush will conduct a series of meetings Saturday with other heads of states and premiers.

The president was also greeted by demands from the Chinese delegation that the U.S. take "all measures necessary" to stop the fall of the American dollar and "restore equilibrium" to global foreign exchange markets, according to Agence France Presse.

Free trade negotiations

Prime Minister Paul Martin arrived in Chile Friday. After a meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Martin said Ottawa had launched exploratory talks with South Korea regarding a bilateral free-trade agreement.

Ottawa would take a first step toward a possible deal by consulting the provinces, business leaders and non-governmental organizations over the coming months, before meeting again with South Korean officials in six months' time.

"Officials will sit down and hammer out an agreement next spring," International Trade Minister Jim Peterson said.

In 2003, Canada-South Korea trade was worth $7 billion, with $5.1 billion of the total accounted for by Korean exports to Canada. Canada only exported goods worth $1.9 billion to South Korea in exchange.

Korean peninsula nuclear talks

Other leaders arriving Friday included Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Mexican President Vicente Fox, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao are also attending.

Among others, Bush plans to meet with leaders from China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, hoping to give renewed impetus to talks with North Korea aimed at making the Korean peninsula nuclear weapons-free.

On Thursday trade and foreign ministers from 21 Pacific Rim economies issued a strong show of support for ongoing World Trade Organization talks. They also agreed on new counterterrorism measures aimed at protecting everything from air travel to shipping and food stocks.

APEC was set up in 1989 with the main purpose of promoting greater trade between its 21 member states from Asia and the Americas.