Top economies yield to United States, drop no-protectionism pledge

In an early taste of what Donald Trump's "America First" push spells for the world, finance ministers from the G20 group of developed and emerging nations failed to get Washington to sign off on a pledge to reject protectionism in a closing statement. "We reiterate our determination to use all policy tools - monetary, fiscal and structural - individually and collectively to achieve our goal of strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, while enhancing economic and financial resilience".

Since taking office, he has withdrawn the USA from a trans-Pacific free trade pact and attacked export giants China and Germany over their massive trade surplus. During his campaign, Trump threatened unilateral tariffs on Mexican and Chinese goods and said he would quit the North American Free Trade agreement unless it is renegotiated to his liking. Officials may continue to seek greater consensus on trade between now and the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg in July.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, taking part in his first worldwide meeting since being sworn in, expressed optimism despite the disagreement over wording.

The G20 meeting in the German spa town of Baden-Baden marked his first appearance in an global forum since he was appointed to the position. He said that the statement needed to reflect the discussion at the current summit.

Carried to power on the back of a political storm over deindustrialization in vast areas of the U.S., Trump vowed in his inauguration speech to "follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American".

Clear support emerged last week from Group of 20 (G20) members' Finance Ministers and central bank governors for the broadening of global economic and financial cooperation with African countries to "foster sustainable and inclusive growth" in line with the African Union's Agenda 2063.

It was against this backdrop that the G20 dropped an anti-protectionist commitment from its communique after opposition from the US. Its decisions don't have the same force as an worldwide treaty but depend on individual countries' promises to follow through. He met with top officials from France, South Korea, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, the European Central Bank, Britain, Germany and Argentina, among others.

"I understand what the president's desire is and his policies, and I negotiated them from here", Mnuchin said, according to Reuters.

One beneficiary of GOP's tax bill: President Trump.

G-20 financial leaders broke with longstanding tradition over the weekend by failing to renew a commitment to resist all forms of protectionism.

  • Eleanor Harrison