US Supports Fair Trade But Rejects Ban on Protectionism

"We couldn't be happier with the outcome", said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of the two-day meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and their central bankers in the German resort town of Baden-Baden. The development led to warnings over the weekend on the outlook for trade, a key issue for host nation Germany, which fought the new USA government's attempts to water down past commitments.

He said the USA, which since Trump took office has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and called for the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) to be renegotiated, was looking to enter into trade deals that are a "win-win" situation for the parties involved.

At the G20 meeting, held last week in Germany, the convened governors and Ministers, which included South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago, "substantially backed" the G20 Compact with Africa for Resilience and Growth (CwA), a newly launched framework for regional economic and financial stability in Africa.

World finance chiefs struggled during a weekend of tense talks to find common ground on boosting trade in a global economy that is finally showing faint signs of momentum.

Mr Trump has made his position clear on what this work would involve.

"Right now I would say the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the US", Mr Trump said.

The change in rhetoric marks the influence of US President Donald Trump on the G20 summit.

He said trade deals need to offer a "win-win situation".

Some advocates, such as the International Monetary Fund, readily concede that the benefits of free trade have been uneven across societies, as less-skilled workers lose out and the better-trained prosper.

In Baden-Baden the United States found an ally only in Japan.

The delegation from Beijing were keen to build on president Xi Jinping's headline-grabbing speech in Davos, where the leader of the communist China made a robust defence of globalisation. It will hope that by then the U.S. has decided what it wants to do with its role in a world order it has done more than any other country to shape.

Gary Schmitt, co-director of the Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said Trump could be sending a signal to other leaders that this is a negotiation, and the actions by Mnuchin at the meeting are an opening bid.

  • Anthony Vega