G20 financial leaders row back on free trade pledge

The world’s financial leaders rowed back on a pledge to keep an open and inclusive global trade system after being unable to find a suitable compromise with an increasingly protectionist United States.

Making only a token reference to trade in their communique, finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the world’s top 20 economies broke with a decade-long tradition of endorsing open trade, a clear defeat for host nation Germany.

Germany has fought to maintain the G20’s past commitments.

In the new US administration’s biggest clash yet with the international community, G20 finance chiefs also rowed back on a pledge to support climate change finance, an anticipated outcome after US President Donald Trump called global warming a “hoax”.

“We are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies,” G20 finance chiefs said.

He said this after a two-day meeting in the German resort town of Baden Baden, well short of a past commitment for rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trade.

Seeking to put “America first”, Trump has already pulled out of a key trade agreement and proposed a new tax on imports, arguing that certain trade relationships need to be reworked to make them fairer for US workers.

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