The world's financial leaders reaffirmed on Tuesday their commitment to fight protectionism and said there was need for "further dialogue and actions" on trade, just days before US steel and aluminum tariffs are to enter into force.
G20 officials fretted about the dangers that a potential trade war posed to world economic growth.
- The G20 finance leaders' language on trade policy in their communique likely won't change much from that of last year's summit in Hamburg, a senior Japanese finance ministry official said on Monday.
The G20 finance leaders will wrap up their two-day meeting on Tuesday and issue a communique summarizing their agreements on issues ranging from global economic risks to cryptocurrency.
The Hamburg agreement, signed by all G20 leaders including Trump, said G20 countries would fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices, although it also said they recognise the role of "legitimate trade defence instruments".
But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed the Trump administration's emphasis on "free trade with reciprocal terms". They say they are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to the global economy.
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"We need to be prepared to act in the USA interest, again, to defend free and fair, reciprocal trade", he said in a press conference after the talks, adding that there was always a risk that others would reciprocate.
The G20 communique said "recent market volatility despite sound fundamentals of the global economy is a reminder of risks and vulnerabilities", a wording that was not included in previous communiques.
An early draft of the G20 communique seen by Reuters contained the phrase that G20 finance ministers stood by an agreement reached by their leaders in July past year in Hamburg. Yet the US can also argue its tariffs are a "legitimate trade defence instrument".
The European Union, the biggest USA trading partner, wants to be exempt from the metals tariffs like Canada and Mexico, but so far has not had any success. But the European Union wants to be exempted, too.
Minoru Kihara, Japan's vice finance minister, welcomed the statement, saying at a news conference, "We reached a shared recognition that protectionism will not benefit any country".
But it also says in the same sentence that they "recognise the role of legitimate trade defence instruments" - an ambiguity which provides the USA with a way to argue its cause on the tariffs. They say such currencies raise issues involving consumer and investor protection, money laundering and terrorist financing.