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Donald Trump's 'America first' push derails G20 bid to protect free trade

Finance ministers from the G20 group failed to get the US to sign a pledge to reject protectionism

AFP | PTI  |  Baden-Baden (Germany) 

Donald Trump, us budget, us defence
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

The United States on Saturday challenged long-standing global principles surrounding free trade, refusing to renew past anti-protectionist pledges and threatening to reopen negotiations on World Trade Organization (WTO) deals.

In a first sign of what Donald Trump's "America First" push spells for the world, finance ministers from the group of developed and emerging nations failed to get Washington to sign off on a pledge to reject protectionism in a closing statement.

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

And an entire section on action against climate change was dropped from the final document, sparking dismay among America's partners as well as environmental activists.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin shrugged off the outcry.

"The historical language was not relevant and, what is relevant is what we agreed as a group: to strengthen the contributions of trade to our economies and we will strive to reduce excess global imbalances to promote inclusiveness and fairness and reduce inequality," he said.

"I think that accurately reflects what we as a group talked about," he added.

He stressed that what Washington seeks is "free and fair trade" that is good for both Americans and the world.

But trade deals that currently exist are not always balanced, he said, warning that Washington will not hesitate to renegotiate them.

"We want to reexamine certain agreements, we have talked about reexamining NAFTA," he told journalists, referring to the North American Agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States.

"We think there are parts of the that are not being enforced, and will look to aggressively enforce things in the interest of American workers, and to the extent the agreements are old agreements and need to be renegotiated, we'll consider that as well," he added.

First Published: Sun, March 19 2017. 03:00 IST