Published: Sun, March 19, 2017
Economy | By Annette Adams

G20 finance ministers drop anti-protectionist pledge amid United States pushback

G20 finance ministers drop anti-protectionist pledge amid United States pushback

That wording stops short of rejecting protectionism, as the group has done in the past.

If the the finance ministers fail to forge a consensus on trade, then they may be forced to hand the issue over to the G20 leaders who meet in a summit in July in the northern German port town of Hamburg.

The communique issued on Saturday was milder than the last one, from 2016.

Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, downplayed differences over the language.

In a meeting that some said was at times 19 against one, the United States did not yield on key issues, essentially torpedoing earlier agreements as the G20 requires a consensus. The organization is one of several global groups invited to participate in the meeting.

The final statement from the group featured only a passing mention of protecting free trade by saying, "we are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies".

That stance has grated Washington's partners, who are trying to persuade US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to renew a long-standing G20 anti-protectionism commitment and uphold an worldwide deal on climate won only after years of painful negotiations. Mnuchin's German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, admitted later that the American "didn't have a mandate to negotiate new or creative wordings" on trade policy.

Protectionism, the policy of introducing tariffs and taxes on imports and thus "protecting" the interests of domestic industries, has been a part of the U.S.'s trade policies since the nation's earliest days.

"At past meetings, joint affirmations of free trade have been virtually automatic".

References to action against climate change under the Paris Accord were absent from the G20 statement, unlike at a China-led summit past year.

He believes the rules of global trade have been stacked against America, and its workers.

Europe wants to keep G-20 language rejecting protectionism but the US wants reciprocal treatment or fair trade. "Having said that, we want to re-examine certain agreements". He said trade agreements need to be "free and fair" and balanced.

In addition, the ministers will consider the state of the global economy as well as measures for ensuring sustainable growth. "Trade contributes to our economies", Schauble said at a press conference. And now the anti-trade and anti-globalisation zealots in the Trump administration have transformed what was once the strongest voice for free trade, and won an important symbolic victory in the gathering of the world's most powerful governments. That could include job training and education, since the International Monetary Fund says trade and globalization have benefited higher-skilled workers.

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