USA to confront trade partners at global finance meeting

The gathering Friday and Saturday in the southern German resort town of Baden-Baden will help set the tone for global commerce and finance and will give Mnuchin a chance to clarify what the USA position is.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen represented the two days of meetings with their counterparts from the world's 20 largest economies in Baden-Baden, Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to work together for free trade and open markets, a German government spokesman said.

Since President Donald Trump has taken office, he has been vocal in pursuing an "America First" policy and has warned firms would face "consequences" if they moved business operations overseas.

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Trump's top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, previously accused Germany of using a "grossly undervalued" euro in order to gain advantage over the US and its own European Union partners.

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

"I understand what the president's desire is and his policies and I negotiated them from here, and we couldn't be happier with the outcome", he said.

They also said the USA delegation at the G-20 was routinely checking back with its counterparts in Washington on certain issues, leading some Europeans to wonder with whom they were negotiating, Mnuchin or Trump.

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After a two-day meeting, ministers from G20 developed and developing nations said they were "working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies" but failed to spell out a pledge to reject protectionism in a closing statement. German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said the talks were long and frank. "We are for free, regulated worldwide trade, with rules respected by everyone". This breaks with a decade-old tradition of the G-20 endorsing free trade and rejecting protectionism. That could include job training and education, since the International Monetary Fund says trade and globalization have benefited higher-skilled workers. He denied he was "an isolationist", rather "a free trader, but also a fair trader".

The Group of 20 is comprised of 19 countries plus the European Union. "But it wasn't clear what one or another meant by that", he said. He welcomed Mr Mnuchin's language as a "very good message", but conceded that not all differences would be addressed at the G20 meeting that ends on Saturday.

The finance ministers' meeting will pave the way for a summit of national leaders in Hamburg, Germany, in first week of July this year.

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