U.S. Torpedoes G20 Free Trade Statement on German Home Turf

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Trump administration’s refusal to endorse free trade at the G20 finance ministers meeting in Baden-Baden signals a departure by the United States from basic international norms.

  • Facts


    • For the past decade, the G20 finance ministers have issued a statement endorsing free trade after their meeting.
    • U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin torpedoed a statement in which the G20 members would have vowed to oppose all forms of protectionism.
    • Nearly all the other G20 members opposed the U.S. move. Only Saudi Arabia stayed out of the fight.
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin addresses a news conference at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Baden-Baden
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin addresses a news conference at the G20 finance ministers meeting in Germany. Source: Reuters.

Chancellor Angela Merkel probably never anticipated that the greatest challenge to Germany’s G20 leadership would be the United States. Then again, few people expected Donald Trump to win the U.S. presidency.

Mr. Trump, who made a protectionist economic agenda part of his platform, has made no secret of how he feels about Germany’s trade surplus. His trade advisor, Peter Navarro, has gone so far as to accuse Berlin of using an undervalued euro to exploit the United States.

Given the escalating tensions between the two largest Western economies, all eyes were on Ms. Merkel and Mr. Trump as they met for the first time in Washington on Friday.

The chancellor, with executives such as Joe Kaeser of Siemens and Harald Krüger of BMW in tow, sought to demonstrate that German companies are job creators in the United States and trade is not a zero-sum game.

As Ms. Merkel was in Washington trying to convince Mr. Trump of the virtues of free trade, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was in Baden-Baden battling G20 finance ministers over a joint communique.

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