Italy's Padoan says G7 did not discuss trade protectionism

Posted May 14, 2017

But despite fear of restrictive trade practices under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the G-7 statement, issued after a meeting in southern Italy, skipped any explicit wording on protectionism, as did the finance chief's statement of the Group of 20 economies at their gathering in March.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States reserved the right to be protectionist if it thought trade was not free or fair.

At a news conference in Bari, Italy, where finance ministers from the Group of Seven nations gathered, Mnuchin said, "We do not want to be protectionist but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent that we believe trade is not free and fair".

From Japan, Finance Minister Taro Aso and Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda participated in the meeting.

The finance meeting paves the way for a meeting of national leader in Sicily May 26-26. Trump has vowed to press for trade that is fair as well as open and benefits US workers and has focused on bilateral, or country-to-country, relations.

Mnuchin said his meetings with finance leaders had led to better understanding of the USA president's position that trade must be fair and balanced as well as open.

Lavrov and Tillerson to Meet May 10 in Washington
Mr Trump has said he has no ties to Russia and is not aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian election interference. A Russian plan to stabilise Syria after more than six years of civil war is the most urgent foreign policy topic on the agenda.

European officials complained that the USA meaning of "fair trade" remained unclear and that the only way to establish fairness was to abide by the multilateral framework developed by the World Trade Organization. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group representing many advanced economies, has urged the U.S.to lower its corporate tax rate.

The Italian G7 presidency has listed security as a "global public good" - including issues related to anti-terrorism financing, remittances and cyber security - and one of its four finance priorities.

They also called for a renewed common effort against cybercrime, a timely message in the wake of Friday's ransom ware attacks in dozens of countries.

Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan told reporters that the discussions on cybersceurity, which had in fact been scheduled before Friday's attacks, turned out to be "unfortunately very timely".

The G-7 is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The European Union also attends the informal forum.

The agreements, presented in the form of a final statement, are not legally binding but they represent the leaders' political commitment to follow through.