Little economic common ground found at G-20 meeting

G20 probably won't include any mention of trade in communique

The G20 summit of the world's biggest economies issued a statement yesterday supporting trade between countries as a means to economic growth - but dropping the commitment to avoid all protectionism, a key feature of previous G20 agreements.

The U.S., represented by Steven Mnuchin in his first appearance at an global forum as Treasury Secretary, argued that trade arrangements need to be made fairer, in line with the administration's claims the U.S. has had a bad deal from the current setup.

In an interview during the meeting, as doubts spread that trade might not be mentioned at all, Mr Morrison said its absence "would not reflect well on what we are doing here, and I don't think it would reflect the will of the economies that have gathered here".

This was something of a defeat for the German hosts but more significantly a marker of where the world's top economy now stands under the Donald Trump administration.

The statement from the G-20 finance ministers and central bankers helps set the tone for further global economic cooperation.

On the economic spectrum, protectionism is the opposite of free trade.

We will resist all forms of protectionism. Its domestic policies have made these changed priorities clear: last week, the Trump administration proposed a 31% budget cut for the US Environmental Protection Agency.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude declined 66 cents to $48.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude, used to price global oils, lost 53 cents to trade $51.23 in London.

In a press conference afterward, he described the meeting as extremely productive and stressed that Trump's administration believed in free trade.

While delegates greeted Mnuchin and said that he had been engaged in the process, it wasn't possible to reconcile the US stance and that of the other members in any substantive way.

He said trade deals need to offer a "win-win situation".

The deletion of a "ritualistic phrase" in the G20's core language could over time diminish US influence, said Eswar Prasad, a former International Monetary Fund official and trade policy professor at Cornell University.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, downplayed the content of the statement.

The most immediate problem for the rest of the G20 is that they head into the summit of leaders, in Hamburg in July, with tremendous uncertainty over whether they can bring the United States into the fold.

The US is nudging the G-20 to change course. He also has started the process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

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