G20 leaders fail to reach agreements on free trade

"Our objective is getting more balanced trade agreements", he said, confirming that having border taxes is an option.

Holding their annual talks in the rain sodden spa town of Baden Baden, the world's biggest economies dropped a long-standing anti-protectionist commitment after opposition from the US.delegation - led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

On Thursday, following talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Mnuchin said Washington had no desire to fight "trade wars" with other economic powers.

The focus will be on the final statement issued jointly by the finance ministers on Saturday.

Europe, China and Brazil want the G-20 to preserve current language calling for a rejection of protectionism "in all its forms".

In this first G20 summit of the Trump era, there was trepidation among other members, following Trump's declaration of an "America First" agenda, and his criticism of the trade policies of China, Mexico, and others.

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After a two-day meeting, ministers from G20 developed and emerging nations said they were "working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies" but failed to spell out a pledge to reject protectionism in a closing statement. "It was totally undisputed that we are against protectionism". Ahead of the meeting, Germany, which holds the G20 presidency, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have warned that United States protectionist talk risks derailing the global economy.

The two leaders also agreed to continue cooperation, especially in the framework of Germany's presidency of the G20, said the spokesman. She highlighted a free trade agreement between the European Union and South Korea that had benefited both sides.

In two days of meetings in Baden-Baden, delegates split under the pressure of the new US rhetoric on the balance of global trade, with most favoring a multilateral, rules-based system as now embodied in the World Trade Organization.

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. This included executive orders withdrawing the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and ordering a review of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). "But it is not very clear what (protectionism) means to each (minister)".

The finance ministers' meeting will pave the way for a summit of national leaders in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7 and 8.

Mnuchin and Chinese Finance Minister Xiao Jie and central bank Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting in Baden-Baden, one of the G-20 officials said.

  • Stacy Houston