Steven Mnuchin at G7: 'We don't want to be protectionist'

Financial leaders of seven leading world economies pledged stronger cooperation against cyber crime on Saturday and not to use foreign exchange to gain competitive advantage, but stuck to their cautious wording on trade, their final communique showed.

While trade was not specifically on the agenda, its presence loomed large as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came under pressure to engage on the matter. A U.S. Treasury spokesman said Mnuchin will brief his counterparts in Bari on the Trump administration's still-emerging plans to revamp the U.S. tax system - with major cuts for businesses - and ease regulatory burdens.Reflecting tensions over Trump's attitude to protectionism, there will be no formal discussion of trade in Bari, Italian Treasury officials said. "People are more comfortable today, now that they've had the opportunity to spend time with me and listen to the president and hear our economic message".

Michel Sapin, France's minister for finance, said the other delegations had put pressure on the USA to not turn its back on global economic diplomacy.

The economy minister and central bank governor of Italy, which holds the G7 presidency, both replied negatively when asked at the end of a G7 meeting in Bari whether the group had any suspicions on the culprits of the attack.

"All the six others. said explicitly, and some very directly, to the representatives of the US administration that it is absolutely necessary to continue with the same spirit of global cooperation", said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said there was a "light breeze" of optimism within the G7 about the recovering global economy after years of sluggish growth.

But he said the continued uncertainty about the direction of United States policy represented a risk, echoing comments made on Friday by Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso.

The closing statement from Bari will reiterate a warning against competitive devaluations, Italian officials said, as March's G20 did, allaying fears that the new USA administration might weaken the G20's united front on global currency policy.GREEKS FOR BREAKFAST The G7 will kick off on Friday with an early morning discussion of Greece's debt ahead of a May 22 meeting of euro zone finance ministers on the disbursement of new loans, French officials said.

They also say the USA demand to balance trade bilaterally was not economically sound, because trade deficits and surpluses could only be analysed in a global context.

He said the Trump administration's economic policies aren't directly aimed at pursuing policies that would restrict trade, but rather are meant to spur USA growth and aid the global economy.

Trump has proposed slashing the United States corporate income tax rate and offer multinational businesses a steep tax break on overseas profits brought back home. The European Union also attends meetings of the group.

And the timing of the discussion couldn't be more apt.

  • Zachary Reyes