Free trade pledge at G20 summit

Germany and Argentina want to uphold a pledge to keep international trade free at a summit of the world’s largest economies in Buenos Aires this week, their finance ministers said.

Argentina’s treasury minister Nicolas Dujovne, the host of the summit of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, said the aim was to reach an agreement sustaining the benefits of free trade.

His words were echoed by Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz.

Scholz said protectionism could harm economic prospects and said that Germany would continue talks to dissuade the US from imposing planned punitive steel and aluminium tariffs.

He said he would underscore the importance of free trade for the global economy when he meets US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Free trade had a decisive role to play in securing future growth, said Scholz.

“That’s why it would be difficult if protectionism played a bigger role,” he said. Scholz said Germany had a clear position on the planned US tariffs, and hoped further discussions with US officials could help avert a looming trade war with the EU.

German economy minister Peter Altmaier warned the US against trying to drive a wedge between Germany and the rest of Europe with import tariffs, and said a global trade war would harm producers and consumers.

Altmaier said he prepared for his meetings with US officials in close co-ordination with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

“We are a customs union and act jointly. It cannot be in the interest of the US government to divide Europe, and it also would not succeed,” he said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Chinese president Xi Jinping about the proposed US tariffs, and underscored the importance of multilateral co-operation on global trade.

The two leaders agreed to work on solutions for excess capacity in world steel markets within the framework of the G20 group of industrialised nations.

Trump wants to impose duties on incoming steel and aluminium. He also threatened to levy a tax on European cars if the EU did not remove tariffs and trade barriers on a range of goods.

- Reuters

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