Wed | Sep 26, 2018

Top economies yield to US and drop no-protectionism pledge

Published:Sunday | March 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde (centre), speaks during the group photograph during the G20 finance ministers meeting in Baden-Baden, southern Germany, yesterday.


The world's top economic powers dropped a pledge to oppose trade protectionism amid pushback from the Trump administration, which wants trade to more clearly benefit American companies and workers.

Finance ministers from the Group of 20 countries meeting in the southern German town of Baden-Baden issued a statement yesterday which said only that countries "are working to strengthen the contribution of trade" to their economies.

By comparison, last year's meeting called on them to resist "all forms" of protectionism, which can include border tariffs and rules that keep out imports to shield domestic companies from competition.

The statement from the G20 finance ministers and central bankers helps set the tone for further global economic co-operation.

United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, taking part in his first international meeting since being sworn in, sought to downplay the wording issue. He said that the statement needed to reflect the discussion at the current summit.

"The historical language was not really relevant," said Mnuchin.

"We believe in free trade: we are one of the largest markets in the world, we are one of the largest trading partners in the world," added Mnuchin.

"Having said that, we want to re-examine certain agreements... And to the extent that agreements are old agreements and need to be renegotiated we'll consider that as well."

He said trade deals need to offer a "win-win situation".

Mnuchin said the administration would be looking at relationships where the US was buying more than it could sell to its partner, and would be more aggressive in seeking enforcement of existing rules that would benefit US workers through the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation.

The WTO operates a system of negotiated trade rules and serves as a forum for resolving disputes.