G-20 Drops Anti-Protectionist Pledge as Price of U.S. Assent
Finance chiefs tussled over multilateralism and fair trade
Topic may come under closer scrutiny at leaders summit in July
by Rainer Buergin, Jeff Black, and Josh Wingrove, Blooomberg
March 18, 2017
Finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies set aside a pledge to avoid protectionism and signed up to a fudged statement on trade instead, in response to the Trump administration’s call to rethink the global order for commerce.
Group of 20 nations said in a communique on Saturday that they are “working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies.” While the U.S. didn’t get all it wanted -- such as a explicit pledge to ensure trade is fair -- that’s a much pared-down formulation compared with the group’s statement last year, and omits a promise to “avoid all forms of protectionism.”
In two days of meetings in the German town of Baden-Baden, the argument by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in his first appearance at an international forum in the role, reflects claims by President Donald Trump that his nation has had a bad deal from the current global trade setup. That attitude pitched him against most other delegates, who favored a multilateral, rules-based system as embodied in the World Trade Organization.
“My view is that the Americans were doing what any new administration would do -- they were looking at the language through their lens,” said Bill Morneau, Canada’s finance minister, who made a last-ditch push for the compromise. “Their lens is: how can trade benefit the U.S.? Everyone else has the same lens, but every other country has the advantage of being at the previous meeting.”
The mood was highlighted the previous day at the White House, where Trump met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and repeated his complaints that his country has been treated “very, very unfairly” in trade arrangements.
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