Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, President Donald Trump made it abundantly clear that when it came to the economy and trade, his priority was always to place “America First.”
It appeared that his message was heard loud and clear by the financial representatives of the world’s largest economies, judging by changes that occurred to the official language of a communique following a recent G-20 economic summit in Germany, according to Bloomberg.
In a meeting intended to lay the groundwork for the annual G-20 summit to be held in Hamburg, Germany, in July, Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin scored a win for his boss by having language explicitly demanding that member nations “avoid all forms of protectionism” removed from the official communique released at the conclusion of the meeting.
The two-day summit was Mnuchin’s first major appearance in his role, and he made it clear that the U.S. was revisiting the worldwide trade imbalance as it related to its interests and would be making changes to trade deals where necessary.
“My view is that the Americans were doing what any new administration would do — they were looking at the language through their lens,” said Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau. “Their lens is: How can trade benefit the U.S.? Everyone else has the same lens, but every other country has the advantage of being at the previous meeting.”
German media outlet DW reported that the official communique also dropped language signifying a commitment to “free” trade but was unable to add language focused on “fair” trade.
Other changes included the removal of language expressing a commitment to the World Trade Organization, as well as the financing of various climate change programs.
“We will strive to reduce excess global imbalances to promote inclusiveness and fairness and reduce inequality,” Mnuchin told journalists after the summit. “We think there are parts of the WTO that are not being enforced and will look to aggressively enforce things in the interest of American workers.”
“I understand what the president’s desire is and his policies, and I negotiated them from here,” Mnuchin said, according to Reuters. “I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
“We believe in free trade, we are in one of the largest markets in the world, we are one of the largest trading partners in the world, trade has been good for us, it has been good for other people,” Mnuchin added. “Having said that, we want to re-examine certain agreements.”
To be sure, the other members of the G-20 were not particularly thrilled to make such changes to the language of their group’s official positions, but those changes were made nevertheless, scoring Trump a victory on the world stage.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out when the leaders reconvene in July for further discussions on managing the global economy.
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