Japan Aso says gradually seeing the course of USA policies

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

Padoan told reporters at the end of the meeting that " protectionism was not discussed either explicitly or impicitly", in answer to a question about the scepticism of US President Donald Trump towards multilateral free trade deals.

"All the six others ... said explicitly, and sometimes very directly, to the representatives of the United States administration that it is absolutely necessary to continue with the same spirit of worldwide cooperation", French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters.

Recalling his discussions with Mnuchin and other G-7 counterparts, Aso said he thinks Mnuchin "has mostly erased concern that (the new US administration) may transform free trade into protectionism".

Italy, the host country for the informal forum this year, wants the meeting to produce separate statements about fairer growth and fighting tax evasion.

They called for common shared practices to spot quickly any vulnerabilities in the world's financial system and stressed the importance of effective measures to assess cyber security among individual financial firms and at sector level.

Separately, the group, which includes the US, also reiterated its commitment to global trade.

Mnuchin said preliminary discussions have begun with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA, a topic that came up for discussion during his one-on-one meeting with Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Trump has proposed slashing the U.S. corporate income tax rate and offer multinational businesses a steep tax break on overseas profits brought back home.

Mnuchin's brand of diplomacy had already showed signs of evolution between that meeting and one in Washington a month later, with his position that trade be "fair" rather than "free" crystallizing into a call for "reciprocal free trade". "I am quite confident that the development will continue, that the USA administration will engage more strongly in this process".

"It is important, protectionism is off the table, I think that there was no disagreement over the fact that trade promotes growth, and has to be inclusive", Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told Bloomberg Television.

The talks, scheduled before Friday's events, focused particularly on the potential threat to the global financial system in the event of hackers being able to infiltrate the computer systems that run the global banking system, capital and equity markets.

The gathering in a 13th-Century seaside fortress in the southern Italian town of Bari is paving the way for a meeting of national leaders in Taormina, Sicily May 26-27.

Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States make up the G7.

The meeting also coincided with news of a significant foray by the Trump administration into global commerce.

  • Zachary Reyes