US says global trade must be fair as well as free

Finance ministers from the world's biggest economies were battling Saturday to halt a bid by US President Donald Trump's administration to roll back hard-fought pledges on trade and climate.

"(Mnuchin) is supportive of open markets and open world trade and with this I believe that some things that appear as concerns now will decrease over time. but there is still some work to do", Schaeuble said on Friday, according to a translation.

Host Germany dropped the no-protectionism pledge in the early drafting process ahead of the meeting, in apparent hope of not antagonizing the USA and then finding a substitute that would also uphold free trade. According to reports, officials were looking to replace the group's long standing opposition to "all forms" of protectionism with a new wording that would reflect USA concerns and reference "fair" trade.

"It is not the best meeting we had, but we avoided backtracking", EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.

Mnuchin said the administration would be looking at relationships where the USA was buying more than it could sell to its partner, and would be more aggressive in seeking enforcement of existing rules that would benefit US workers through the Geneva-based World Trade Organization.

PHOTO Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, left, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin meet for talks ahead of the G-20 Finance Ministers meeting in Baden-Baden, southern Germany, Friday.

That stance has grated Washington's partners, who are trying to persuade US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to renew a long-standing G20 anti-protectionism commitment and uphold an global deal on climate won only after years of painful negotiations. "We are for free, regulated global trade, with rules respected by everyone". The Trump administration has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal and pledged to push an "America First" agenda.

It said the 19 leading industrial nations plus the European Union "will resist all forms of protectionism".

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". "We have a means to address that", Mnuchin said, referring to White House advisors' belief that Chinese and German goods are priced too low in the United States because their currencies are too weak against the dollar.

The focus will be on the final statement issued jointly by the finance ministers on Saturday. Before the group meeting, the two talked for about 35 minutes in the first face-to-face between finance ministers of Japan and the US since the inception of the new administration in Washington.

  • Marlene Weaver