LIMA, Peru (CNN) – President George W. Bush, in what could be his final overseas trip as president, called on international leaders to continue his administration's push for free trade despite the global financial crisis.
"One of the enduring lessons of the Great Depression is that global protectionism is a path to global economic ruin," Bush told the annual meeting of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in the capital, Lima.
"I recognize I'm leaving office in two months," Bush said as he discussed the Doha trade talks, which were launched in 2001 to help liberalize international trade policies, "but nevertheless this administration will push hard ... so that Doha can be completed and so we can send a message - we refuse to accept protectionism in the 21st century."
Touting his record on free trade, Bush said, "Expanding trade and investment hs been one of the highest priorities of my administration.
"When I took office, America had free trade agreements in force with only three nations. Today we have agreements in force with 14."
Bush said that during his administration, "America's trade with the world has grown from 2.5 to 4 trillion dollars - an increase of 60 percent."
Among APEC member nations, he cited Chile and Peru as more than doubling their trade with the United States during his time in office, and trade with China more than tripling.
"Overall America's trade with APEC nations now accounts for nearly two thirds of our trade in the world," Bush said.
Bush chided the U.S. Congress, saying it was "extremely disappointing" that lawmakers adjourned without passing new trade agreements between the United States and Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
"I urge all those who support free trade to continue to press the case for the Congress to pass free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and South Korea," he said, drawing applause from his audience.
Referring to the global financial crisis, Bush said, "Recovering from the financial crisis is going to take time. But we'll recover, and in so doing begin a new era of prosperity. The nations of APEC have faced tests before. We have risen to meet them together and we will do so again."
Bush's attendance at the APEC meeting marked his eighth year of meeting with and speaking to economic leaders from a diverse group of countries ranging from Thailand to Mexico, Chile to China.
Bush came to the APEC meeting seeking to build on the results of a historic two-day meeting in Washington earlier this month attended by presidents and prime ministers from 20 countries. At that meeting, world leaders unveiled a set of sweeping plans aimed at tackling the ever-expanding economic crisis, which has roiled financial markets worldwide.
The final 3,600-word announcement from that Group of 20 meeting in Washington endorsed several stimulative measures, including interest rate cuts by central banks around the globe or potential economic stimulus packages.
Leaders who met in Washington also agreed not to raise new trade barriers over the next 12 months and vowed to reach a resolution on the Doha trade talks.