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Not worth the trade-off? G20 wavers in its stance against protectionism

20 March 2017, 05:53 | Melvin Schneider

The Plateau commercial district of Abidjan Ivory Coast is seen in 2014

The Plateau commercial district of Abidjan Ivory Coast is seen in 2014

The world's top economic powers dropped a pledge to oppose trade protectionism amid pushback from the Trump administration, which wants trade to more clearly benefit American companies and workers.

In the new U.S. administration's biggest clash yet with the worldwide community, G20 finance chiefs also removed from their statement a pledge to finance the fight against climate change, an anticipated outcome after U.S. President Donald Trump called global warming a "hoax".

In the final communique, the ministers agreed only to "work to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies" - breaking the long-standing practice of affirming free trade and open markets.

This was something of a defeat for the German hosts but more significantly a marker of where the world's top economy now stands under the Donald Trump administration.

It is also a sad day for environmentalists, as the fight to control climate change can stifle without the support of G20 countries.

"How will the United States protectionism affect the U.S. companies' overseas businesses and how much value would it shred from the USA stocks' value, if any?"

"I can not overstate the importance of avoiding any rollback on this", he said, adding he hopes the G-20 leaders' summit in July produces a stronger commitment against protectionism."I hope, and I think we need it".

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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Since taking office, he has withdrawn the USA from a trans-Pacific free trade pact and attacked export giants China and Germany over their massive trade surplus.

China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, on the same day, said the BRICS should further step up cooperation under the framework of the Group of Twenty (G20), especially in fields of global financial architecture, inclusive finance and green finance.

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". "But it wasn't clear what one or another meant by that", he said.

"To the extent the agreements are old agreements and need to be renegotiated, we'll consider that as well".

U.S Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dismissed the previous communiqué as possibly irrelevant for the current global economic climate.

The most immediate problem for the rest of the G20 is that they head into the summit of leaders, in Hamburg in July, with tremendous uncertainty over whether they can bring the U.S. into the fold.

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