Kyodo: G-20 finance chiefs begin talks amid trade, currency concerns

The world's top economic powers have dropped a pledge to fully oppose trade protectionism amid pushback from the US government of President Donald Trump, who wants to favour American companies and workers more.

The G20 has in the past pledged support to the existing multilateral trade system, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

But as an offer of some reassurance, Mr Trump and Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. trade secretary, said this week that they don't want to start a trade dispute and that the USA is not pursuing isolationist goal.

"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". 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.

But trade deals that now exist are not always balanced, he said, warning that Washington will not hesitate to renegotiate them. "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".

As host nation, Germany has attempted to broker a compromise over the wording on trade that is to be included in the meeting's final statement.

The conspicuous omissions come as Trump champions a "Buy American" strategy that includes threats to penalise companies that manufacture overseas by heavily taxing their products.

Mr Trump's first acts as president included killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal promoted by Australia and seeking to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement, particularly with Mexico.

His stance has been condemned by Washington's trading partners, and led Beijing to issue a stern warning against sparking a trade war. He also rejected a description of his policies as "isolationist".

Then, when given the floor, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin yielded to the European Commission's representative to speak on behalf of the Europeans. Suggesting a go-it-alone approach may now be less likely.

"This is my first G-20, so what was in the past communique is not necessarily relevant from my standpoint", U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the German resort town of Baden-Baden.

Trump's administration proposed a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget Thursday as the White House seeks to eliminate climate change programs and trim initiatives to protect air and water quality.

On the campaign trail, Trump had threatened to pull the USA out of the Paris Accord on combating climate change.

Trump's recognition that man-made climate change is a political maneuver is mentioned by Zero-Hedge, but I disagree with the idea that the hoax was "concocted by China" to hurt USA industry.

"Other countries should not allow this to happen again", added Li.

In an unusual turn of events, hinting growing tensions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized in a telephone conversation the importance of free trade for a growing global economy, according to a statement from Merkel's office.

  • Carolyn Briggs