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Japan's Aso: No G20 member was against free trade

Japan's Aso: No G20 member was against free trade

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, which has fought to maintain the G-20's past commitments.

Germany dropped the no-protectionism pledge early on in the process, the Associated Press reports, to avoid antagonizing the United States delegation.

Merkel said globalization and free trade could be fairer but both had worked for Germany.

He said the statement must reflect the discussion at the current summit.

Commitments of support to the existing multilateral trade system, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), were also conspicuously missing from the final communique.

"We believe in free trade", he said, adding however that "balanced trade needs to be what's good for us and what's good for other people, a win-win situation".

"To the extent the agreements are old agreements and need to be renegotiated, we'll consider that as well". That could include job training and education, since the International Monetary Fund says trade and globalization have benefited higher-skilled workers.

The threat of new protectionist policies and border taxes from the White House have created headaches for countries that rely on America for trade. Ironically, China and some European states tend to intervene more often in private sector business than the US government.

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"What is relevant is what we agreed as a group: to strengthen the contributions of trade to our economies", he said. But attempts to include such language did not find agreement.

Trump and other critics of free trade argue that it can cause jobs, such as in the labor intensive manufacturing sector, to move to lower-cost countries.

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.

Proponents say technological advances, such as automation, are more to blame for the loss of jobs. But they argue that trade restrictions will not help those left behind by the globalized economy and point to better training and education as part of the answer.

Mr Trump has already pulled the USA out of a proposed free trade deal with Japan and other countries. He also has started the process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said the meeting had reached an impasse when it came to the issue, and added that his counterparts could not "force partners" - read the United States - "to go along with wording with which they don't agree". Without mentioning a country by name, he said, "Maybe one or the other important member state needs to get a sense of how global cooperation works".

The G-20 is an informal forum on economic cooperation made up of 19 countries with more than 80 percent of the world economy, plus the European Union.

Worldwide trade makes up nearly half of global economic output and officials said the issue could be revisited at a meeting of G20 leaders in July.

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