G20 financial leaders row back on free trade pledge
19 Mar 2017 - 0:27
Germany: The world’s financial leaders rowed back on a pledge to keep an open and inclusive global trade system after being unable to find a suitable compromise with an increasingly protectionist United States.
Making only a token reference to trade in their communique, finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the world’s top 20 economies broke with a decade-long tradition of endorsing open trade, a clear defeat for host nation Germany, which has fought to maintain the G20’s past commitments.
In the new US administration’s biggest clash yet with the international community, G20 finance chiefs also rowed back on a pledge to support climate change finance, an anticipated outcome after US President Donald Trump called global warming a “hoax”. “We are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies,” G20 finance chiefs said after a two-day meeting in the German resort town of Baden Baden, well short of a past commitment for rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trade. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (pictured), who represented the Trump administration in his first G20 meeting, earlier said it had no desire to get into trade wars but trade needed to be made fairer, a reference to big trade deficits with key G20 members, such as Germany and China.
International trade makes up almost half of global economic output and officials said the issue could be revisited at a meeting of G20 leaders in July. The communique also dropped a reference, used by the G20 last year, on the readiness to finance measures against climate change as agreed in Paris in 2015.
Trump has suggested global warming was a “hoax” concocted by China to hurt US industry and vowed to scrap Paris climate accord aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Trump’s administration on Thursday proposed a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget as the White House seeks to eliminate climate change programmes and trim initiatives to protect air and water quality.