USA treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin moves to ease trade fears
01:17, Mar 18, 2017
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As the gap widens between the rich and the poor, nationalism, populism and protectionism will find fertile ground and pose a risk to prosperity, Schaeuble told a conference, responding in part to an increasingly protectionist stance from the new USA administration.
China's premier Li Keqiang, representing the world's second biggest economy after the US, said this week that Beijing does not want a trade war and would not devalue its currency. "It can be very tempting in the short term but in the long term, it can only undermine trust", Schaeuble said.
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"Our desire is that... when there is imbalances in trading relationships that we have a need to address that", Mnuchin said.
Despite a series of top-level talks surrounding the G20 meeting in the southern spa town of Baden-Baden on Friday and Saturday, the U.S. has held against a push spearheaded by Germany and its European partners for the finance chiefs to explicitly continue their rejection of protectionism. The move underscores Germany's desire to rebuff any explicit U.S. demands to water down the group's commitment to free trade, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares for her first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on March 17.
The US Treasury chief declined to comment specifically on the euro's current value, but in a shift away from criticism by White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro that Germany has benefited unfairly from the euro's weakness, Mnuchin acknowledged that the euro is used by many countries and is affected by many factors.
Attention at the two-day meeting in the German spa town of Baden-Baden has centered on a joint statement that is being prepared for Saturday. Mnuchin agreed that a currency devaluation war must be avoided, and that forex rates should not become a policy target, Aso told reporters. Europe was keen on adding trade should be "rules-based", meaning subject to rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). That could be just wording - or it could be the signal of a new era in the global economy in response to Trump's focus on bilateral trade deals and the America First stance.
The G-20 meeting is taking place with the global economy in relatively good shape: the International Monetary Fund predicts growth of 3.4 percent this year and 3.6 percent next year, compared with 3.1 percent last year. Despite Mr Trump's robust rhetoric against free trade and trading partners, the new United States treasury secretary insisted he was more interested in solutions that avoided confrontation.
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