BADEN BADEN, Germany – The United States threw a wrench into global trade talks at a two-day G20 meeting, which ended on Saturday with a communique that was devoid of the typical language about open trade and also did not contain a pledge to finance efforts to combat climate change.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, downplayed the content of the statement that emerged from this latest meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s biggest economies.
“This is my first G20, so what was in the past communique is not necessarily relevant from my standpoint,” he said.
In a press conference afterward, Mnuchin described the meeting as extremely productive and stressed that President Donald Trump’s administration believed in free trade – which he said had been good for the US – as long as it was balanced.
He said the US, which since Trump took office has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and called for the North American Free Trade Agreement to be renegotiated, was looking to enter into trade deals that are a “win-win” situation for the parties involved.
The finance minister of host Germany, Wolfgang Schauble, said for his part that the negotiations were very difficult but that a door had been left open for future talks.
He added that the final communique contained language that was not very concrete but which reflected the economies’ shared commitment to fair trade, as demanded by the US, and rejection of currency manipulation.
Trump has accused two G20 members, China and Japan, of currency manipulation, while one of his top trade advisers has leveled the same complaint against Germany.
Because of opposition from the US and Saudi Arabia, the G20’s communique also differed from last year’s statement in that no reference was made to the members’ readiness to finance the battle against climate change.