G-20 Finance Ministers Abandon Free Trade Sentiment

Half the Cherry Blossoms Survived Freeze

Half the Cherry Blossoms Survived Freeze

In a bid for American support, finance ministers of the G-20 have dropped anti-protectionist language from a communique released on Saturday, delivering a blow to free-trade booster Germany while handing the Trump administration a significant victory.

The communiqué was revised to a commitment by the members "to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies", reports Bloomberg.

Ministers had "reached an impasse and dead end" on protectionism, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said after he made a last-ditch effort to try to forge a consensus on the issue.

Canada's belief is, essentially, that the precise wording matters less than finding common ground backing the notion of trade. But failure to agree on a commitment to keep global trade free and open will have negative consequences for financial markets, even if not dramatically so immediately.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, downplayed the content of the statement. I expect that will take a little bit of time.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in a news conference that "there wasn't a G-20 disagreement, there was disagreement within the G-20 between a country and all the others".

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The agreement isn't binding; members can only pressure others to abide by it. "This isn't a caricature, this is the reality of things", he said.

The changes show that the Donald Trump administration isn't about to back down on its reversal of previous United States commitments-and that its economic heft allows it to dictate terms to other leading economies.

"I understand what the president's desire is and his policies and I negotiated them from here, and we couldn't be happier with the outcome", Mnuchin said. The leaders said they don't know whether they will be able to influence his thinking, but they feel he has a willingness to listen, several G-20 attendees said.

Trump railed against global trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and former President Barack Obama's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

European countries and China were said to be pushing for a stronger stance in favor of free trade and cooperative, multi-country frameworks for trade such as the World Trade Organization. Ms Merkel responded that it was the European Union that negotiated on behalf of Germany, but Mr Trump's remark serves as a reminder of the new U.S. administration's scepticism about globalisation. They were looking at the language through their lens.

But the Baden Baden meeting established Mnuchin as a pragmatic operator in the Trump administration's drive for a more level playing field on trade, said Domenico Lombardi, another former IMF official now with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian think-tank.

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