G20 leaders fail to reach agreements on free trade

March 18 (UPI) — G20 financial leaders failed to reach an agreements on free trade during its annual meeting on Saturday.

The meeting of 20 finance ministers from the world’s largest economies ended after two days with no agreement supporting the group’s decade-old tradition of promoting free trade and rejecting protectionism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin represented the U.S. at the meeting and declined to include language in the group’s joint statement that stressed the importance of free trade and that trade should be conducted in a “rules based” manner.

“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.

The final statement from the group featured only a passing mention of protecting free trade by saying, “we are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies.”

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said Mnuchin was at an “impasse” with others in the group about what to say, so they chose to say nothing.

“Obviously he had no mandate to talk about any definitions or interpretations of what the U.S. administration means by ‘fair trade’ and that is something we have to accept for the time being,” Schauble said.

The statement also didn’t include a vow on climate change after the U.S. and Saudi Arabia condemned the reference to climate change funding.

“I regret that our discussions today were not able to reach a satisfactory conclusion on two priorities that are absolutely essential in today’s world,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said.

In their final statement the G20 leaders did agree to include pledges to fight tax avoidance, clamp down on terrorist financing and strengthen private investment in Africa.

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