US, global partners wrestle over trade stance

Author

19 March, 2017

Breaking a decade-long tradition of endorsing open trade, G20 finance ministers and central bankers made only a token reference to trade in their communique on Saturday, a clear defeat for host nation Germany, which fought the new USA government's attempts to water down past commitments.

Two European officials described Mnuchin as friendly but "tough". "Having said that, we want to re-examine certain agreements".

They also said the US delegation at the G-20 was routinely checking back with its counterparts in Washington on certain issues, leading some Europeans to wonder with whom they were negotiating, Mnuchin or Trump. Other prominent participants will be European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, China's finance minister, Xiao Jie, and the host finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble of Germany.

Others suggested that the G20 leaders' meeting in Hamburg this July could be the real opportunity to bring the USA on board.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday shrugged off an outcry over the omission of a long-standing anti-protectionist pledge from a G20 statement, saying language used in the past is "irrelevant". Without mentioning a country by name, he said, "Maybe one or the other important member state needs to get a sense of how global cooperation works".

"The US says that on this issue, the position hasn't been clearly defined in Washington and they need time", added the source.

"That's more of an issue for G20 leaders" when they meet in Hamburg in July, he said.

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In response to Mr Trump's threats to impose import penalties on foreign-produced cars, a move that would hit Germany's influential motoring industry, Dr Schäuble said that "protectionism is not the answer".

The world's financial leaders will renounce competitive devaluations and warn against exchange rate volatility, a document showed on Friday, but are likely to struggle to find common ground on trade and financing against climate change.

"I regret that our discussions today were unable to reach a satisfying conclusion on two absolutely essential priorities that our world and which France would have liked to see the G20 continue to take firm and concerted action on", said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

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

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

Recently, President Trump proposed to take the axe to environmental financing, slashing funds in his first national budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a third, as well as eliminate contributions linked to the United Nations climate change programmes.


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