Steven Mnuchin at G7: 'We don't want to be protectionist'

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso leaves at the end of a plenary session during a G7 of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Bari southern Italy Friday

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso leaves at the end of a plenary session during a G7 of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Bari southern Italy Friday

Leaving controversial talks on trade until a G-7 leaders' summit scheduled for later this month, officials instead pushed U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for details on President Donald Trump's tax package, unveiled late last month.

"A country without any common sense continues to own extremely unsafe weapons", Aso said of North Korea, which has not stopped its nuclear weapons and missile development despite worldwide criticism.

Earlier, he told reporters that "the relationship with Mnuchin improves every time we see each other".

The view was endorsed by Mnuchin, according to the Japanese minister.

At a news conference in Bari, Italy, where finance ministers from the Group of Seven nations gathered, Mnuchin said, "We do not want to be protectionist but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent that we believe trade is not free and fair". "We are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies", the G7 communique read.

Officials from the Group of Seven are also taking the opportunity to hear more about the Trump administration's economic proposals from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin had said that global trade should be "fair" and "reciprocal" during the G20 meeting in March, and his refusal to change his stance on the matter during this most recent G7 meeting stirs greater uncertainty in worldwide trade as the existing global consensus is perceived as crumbling without the active support of the world's largest economy.

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Steven Mnuchin's third encounter with the worldwide community, at a meeting of finance chiefs in Italy, deepened ties even as his government's "America First" policy continues to challenge the global economic consensus.

Canadian Finance Minister William Morneau, right, talks with President of the German Central Bank Jens Weidmann as they exit the Castle of Bari, venue of the G7 of Ministers of finance, in Bari, southern Italy, Friday, May.

Mr Mnuchin said the opening-up of the market for beef sales to China was a "huge deal" for the administration and for USA farmers.

"While many potential policy responses are largely domestic, some of them require, by definition, a collective effort", it stressed.

The Italian G7 presidency has listed security as a "global public good" - including issues related to anti-terrorism financing, remittances and cyber security - and one of its four finance priorities. "I am quite confident that the development will continue, that the US administration will engage more strongly in this process".

"We recognise that the global economy is facing a prolonged period of modest growth, and high and rising inequalities, notably within many countries and affecting in particular middle- and low-income earners", the communique said.

The G-7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United States and U.K., with representatives of the European Union also attending.

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