EU finance ministers today deplored the 'surrealist' stand on world trade taken by the United States at a tense G20 meeting over the weekend.
In a first taste of what Trump's presidency means for the world economy, the G20 failed to get Washington to sign off on a traditional pledge to reject protectionism at a meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany.
"It was a bit surreal for EU member states because the G20 was there to express one's values in terms of removing obstacles as far as trade is concerned and also to ensure that there will be financial stability," said Edward Scicluna, the finance minister from Malta which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.
"So when you have a very important partner expressing different views one has to reassess one's situation very cautiously and diplomatically," added Scicluna, who attended the talks in Baden-Baden.
The anti-protectionism pledge had been a usual feature of the G20 since the start of the global financial crisis and its removal spooked the pro-trade EU.
Scicluna said the weekend meeting in Germany was an important "dress rehearsal" for a G20 leaders summit in July in which President Donald Trump may offer more insight into the US position on trade.
Luxembourg's finance minister, Pierre Gramegna said Europe was "worried ... That open trade and globalisation with its good sides are being put into question."
"Let's give the whole thing a little bit of time and let's try to convince each other," Gramegna added.
EU ministers were meeting in Brussels on the same day as a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to revive talks to seal an EU-Japan free trade deal.
"As Abe is here, its clear that we in the EU ... Don't want to build walls but bridges, also trade bridges, (and are) ready to discuss with our Asian partners," said EU economy commissioner Pierre Moscovici.
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