G20 Finance Minsiter Fail to Agree on Free Trade Following US Pressure

Xavier Trudeau
Mars 19, 2017

The summit of finance ministers from the Group of 20 countries comprising more than 80 percent of the global economy is in progress in the southern German resort town of Baden-Baden.

Finance ministers from the world's biggest economies on Saturday failed to get the USA to renew an anti-protectionist pledge and a vow to fight climate change, in the face of Donald Trump's "America First" push.

"We have talked a lot about the trade policy and agreed on provisions on trade policy..."

Mnuchin said on Thursday (March 17) that President Donald Trump did not want to get into trade wars but wanted to re-examine certain trade relationships to make them fairer for USA workers.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, taking part in his first global meeting since being sworn in, sought to downplay the wording issue.

The G-20 groups Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Both China and Germany have found themselves in the crosshairs of United States criticism over their massive trade surpluses.

Seeking to put "America first", Trump has already pulled out of a key trade agreement and proposed a new tax on imports, arguing that certain trade relationships need to be reworked to make them fairer for US workers.

While delegates greeted Mr Mnuchin and said that he had been engaged in the process, it was not possible to reconcile the U.S. stance and that of the other members in any substantive way.

China's focus on the status quo reflects the nation's economic success under the rules-based system since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

"We talked for a few hours in a very open and trustful way but that doesn't mean that after such a first talk we can already solve all the problems in the world".

Despite German efforts to find a compromise, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said leaders had reached an impasse. The finance ministers' meeting will pave the way for a summit of national leaders in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7-8. According to reports, officials were looking to replace the group's long standing opposition to "all forms" of protectionism with a new wording that would reflect U.S. concerns and reference "fair" trade.

Since taking office, he has withdrawn the USA from a trans-Pacific free trade pact and attacked export giants China and Germany over their massive trade surplus.

The divisions on display in Baden-Baden were mirrored in Washington on Friday, when Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.

Asked about climate change funding, Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, said on Thursday: "We consider that to be a waste of money".

"I understand what the president's desire is and his policies, and I negotiated them from here", Mnuchin said.

Other reports by CampDesrEcrues

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