emfizz.com March 24, 2017

Not worth the trade-off? G20 wavers in its stance against protectionism

20 March 2017, 08:16 | Jan Cross

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to testify at his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 19

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to testify at his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 19

During a meeting of financial officials from the 20 biggest world economies, Mnuchin defended the president's antitrade agenda with sufficient gusto to force a significant change in the language of the G-20's communique.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, taking part in his first global meeting since being sworn in, expressed optimism despite the disagreement over wording.

"We do have a new administration and we do have a different view of trade", said the former Goldman Sachs banker, who took up the position last month. "Their lens is: how can trade benefit the U.S.?" During his campaign, Trump threatened unilateral tariffs on Mexican and Chinese goods and said he would quit the North American Free Trade agreement unless it is renegotiated to his liking.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, despite admitting a consensus could not be reached on the actual meaning of protectionism, insisted that the meeting was a success and warned against exaggerating the reaction of the American delegation. It was against this backdrop that the G20 dropped an anti-protectionist commitment from its communique after opposition from the US.

Host German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble however struck a conciliatory tone, noting that in the US the matters of finance and trade were divided in two portfolios. "But it is not very clear what [protectionism] means to each [minister]".

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While delegates greeted Mnuchin and said that he had been engaged in the process, it wasn't possible to reconcile the US stance and that of the other members in any substantive way.

"What was included in the past communiques was not necessarily relevant from my standpoint", Mnuchin said following the meeting.

Ministers made a decision to give a little now in hopes that they can come up with language later that will satisfy most of the G-20 and Donald Trump before the meeting of principals in July.

While delegates greeted Mnuchin and said that he had been engaged in the process, they said he didn't elaborate on how the USA considers itself to be treated unfairly. "We reiterate our determination to use all policy tools - monetary, fiscal and structural - individually and collectively to achieve our goal of strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, while enhancing economic and financial resilience". The G20 summit with each country's government leader will be held in July in Hamburg, Germany.

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