With the sun shining in the German spa town of Baden-Baden, the first annual meeting of the G20 got under way with a reassurance from the US Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin that the White House was not interested in instigating global trade wars.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen represented the U.S.in two days of meetings with their counterparts from the world's 20 largest economies in Baden-Baden, Germany.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble speaks during a news conference during the G20 finance ministers meeting in Baden-Baden, southern Germany, Saturday, March 18, 2017.
Asked why a clear rejection of protectionism did not feature in the final document, Schaeuble said: "It is not that we were not united".
Greenpeace East Asia's Li Shuo blamed Washington for a G20 statement that he said showed a "lack of attention to climate change".
"This is why it's all the more important that we are well prepared", Schaeuble said, adding that strengthening the economic resilience against future shocks was one of the priorities of the German G20 presidency.
"The historical language was not relevant", he told journalists after the gathering of finance ministers and central bankers in Baden Baden, western Germany.
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The divisions between the US and other major powers over trade were on display again Friday, when Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.
Mnuchin said. "We need to make sure we bring unity to the worldwide market".
At a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging nations and the European Union, Steven Mnuchin, attending his first major global gathering as Treasury secretary, signaled that USA policy would follow the campaign promises made by President Donald Trump to put "America first" and review existing trade agreements to seek better deals for the United States.
China and European countries had pushed for a stronger affirmation of cross-border trade without tariffs or barriers. But attempts to include such language did not find agreement.
In the new US administration's biggest clash yet with the worldwide community, G-20 finance chiefs rowed back on a pledge to reject protectionism and maintain an open and inclusive global trade system.
Mr Trump and other critics of free trade argue that it can cause jobs, such as in the labour-intensive manufacturing sector, to move to lower-cost countries. He also has started the process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. Proponents say technological advances, such as automation, are more to blame for the loss of jobs in such sectors. "It was totally undisputed that we are against protectionism".
The G20 meeting of world finance ministers has failed to agree a common position on world trade and climate change. "Now it's up to the state and government leaders at the G20 summit in Hamburg to send a clear signal", Treier said. Its decisions don't have the same force as an worldwide treaty but simply depend on individual countries' promises to follow through on them.