G20 fails to agree on free trade endorsement

19 March, 2017, 18:08 | Author: Oscar Goodwin

Finance ministers from countries including China, Australia, Germany and France "caved into pressure" and agreed to a revision in the world trade policy that "experts warned could make it easier for countries to erect damaging tariffs", according to the Australian Finance Review.

The economic policymakers of the Group of 20 leading countries wrapped up their gathering in Baden-Baden in Germany on Saturday, but failed to reject protectionism, reportedly due to strong opposition from the USA under trade protectionist President Donald Trump. The WTO operates a system of negotiated trade rules and serves as a forum for resolving disputes.

After the meeting, the USA said it still believed in free trade but wanted to correct some excesses. "He's getting around, he's getting to know his colleagues, I think he sent some very positive messages in terms of engaging all the economies". In a reversal of roles, Beijing has been defending free trade and urging Washington to refrain from protectionist measures. We do not want unfair competition.

Both China and Germany have found themselves in the crosshairs of USA criticism over their massive trade surpluses.

His policies includes penalties for companies which manufacture their products overseas.

Trump, who campaigned on an "America First" platform, has already pulled the USA out of a proposed free trade deal with Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.

His stance has been condemned by Washington's trading partners, and led Beijing to issue a stern warning against sparking a trade war.

Mnuchin said the U.S. would work with global partners but review trade deals that disadvantage the U.S.: "It's free trade, balanced trade and fair trade". He also rejected a description of his policies as "isolationist".

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin expressed "regret that our discussions today were unable to reach a satisfying conclusion on two absolutely essential priorities", trade and climate. Suggesting a go-it-alone approach may now be less likely.

The meeting's host, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, told reporters that "no one has mentioned protectionism" and that the statement was about "the right formulation regarding the openness of the world economy".

The ministers and central bank chiefs of the G20 countries ended talks in the German town of Baden Baden on Saturday, making only a token reference for the need to strengthen the contribution of trade to the economy.

The exclusion of climate marked a new setback for environmental action, activists say, after Mr Trump proposed to take the axe to environmental financing.

Under his first national budget proposal, he suggested cutting financial resources for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a third, as well as eliminating contributions linked to United Nations climate change programs. Hurting U.S. industry has been the result of climate change protocols, but I don't believe it was China's idea.

Mr Trump's stance on climate change also sat uneasily with the rest of the room, as sources say the USA delegation is resisting wording in the final communique on the issue.

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