G20 Finance Ministers' Meeting Kicked off in Argentina

Gladys Abbott
March 22, 2018

The threat of trade wars topped the agenda of a meeting of the G20 group of major economies on Monday in Buenos Aires, following a U.S. announcement of new tariffs.

"International trade and investment are important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development", the G20 said in the latest draft communique.

On trade, they reaffirmed the conclusions of the G20 summit in Germany last July, in which they said they would "continue to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices". "We are working to strengthen contribution of trade to our economies", the final G20 ministers' statement said.

Infrastructure financing, labor future, and cryptocurrencies technology should be some of the issues that the officials are expected to discuss, as well as the integration between the European Union and Mercosur and the trade war that the United States launched by placing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

"We need to be prepared to act in the USA interest, again, to defend free and fair, reciprocal trade", he said in a press conference after the talks, adding that there was always a risk that others would reciprocate.

"There's no doubt that the secretary represents the president's very strong view that we believe in free trade", one USA official told reporters.

The G20 communique's new reference on recent market volatility reflected Japan's proposal to send a coordinated message on the risks entailed, Japan's vice finance minister Minoru Kihara said on Tuesday.

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Various coinciding issues will be tackled in this meeting, such as the worldwide financial structure, the global tax system, financial regulation, the technology behind cryptocurrencies and new forms of work.

The European Commission has said that, if the EU is not exempted, it should set duties of 25 percent on a range of US products, whose annual imports to the EU are worth 2.8 billion euros ($3.45 billion).

Others at the G20 meeting shared Europe's concerns. "We want that world trade remains fair and void of dumping measures", Altmaier said.

But they also agreed to use "all policy tools to support strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth" amid lingering concerns about downside risks ranging from a faster-than-expected monetary tightening to heightened economic and geopolitical tensions. Yet the USA can also argue its tariffs are a "legitimate trade defence instrument".

The line in the G20 statement where leaders committed to fighting protectionism and inward-looking policies was removed.

An early draft of the G20 communique seen by Reuters contained the phrase that G20 finance ministers stood by an agreement reached by their leaders in July previous year in Hamburg.

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