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France's Hollande slams Trump-style protectionsim on Chile visit

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Hollande visits Chile's Human Rights Memorial Museum with Michelle Bachelet Reuters

French President François Hollande dubbed protectionism the "worst response" on a visit to Latin America this weekend. His comments came after Donald Trump promised to put "America first" at his inauguration as US president.


"We are utterly opposed to protectionism," Hollande said at a joint news conference in Santiago with his Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet. "We favour regulated globalisation so that there are health standards, social standards ... in the exchanges between countries, between regions."

Protectionism "prevents trade, damages growth and affects employment, including in countries that forge protectionism and above all organise it", he said.

Latin American governments fear that Trump's economic policies will harm their trade with the US and that they could have a domino effect on other countries.

Homage to Allende

Hollande and Bachelet were launching the Franco-Chilean Year of Innovation and signed a number of cooperation accords.

Bachelet - who, like Hollande, is to step down this year - said she hopes France would back Chile in renegotiating an association agreement in place with the European Union.

Hollande paid tribute to Chile's recovery after the 1973-1990 military dictatorship and to Socialist president Salvador Allende, who was killed in the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power.

"In my generation Chile represents both pain and hope," he said. "Pain, that was when there was the coup d'état and because president Allende died here in his palace. Hope, that was that we were able to welcome Chilean exiles and then accompany the return to democracy.

"Chile today is politically stable, economically dynamic and open to the world. It is an example to the world."

Backing for Colombian peace process

Hollande, who last visited Latin America in 2012, was to leave for Colombia late on Sunday.

No French head of state has visited the country since François Mitterrand did so in 1989.

Hollande will visit the Cali region along with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to observe the follow-up mechanism of November's peace deal between the government and the Farc guerrilla movement.

The trip is a gesture of support for the agreement, which was reached after a first deal was rejected in a referendum.

France is contributing 17 million euros to a 95-million-euro European Union fund launched in December in the aftermath of the peace accord.