G-20 financial leaders broke with longstanding tradition over the weekend by failing to renew a commitment to resist all forms of protectionism.
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin made it clear to financial leaders of the world’s largest economies that the U.S. planned to follow through with President Donald Trump’s “America first” agenda.
The group of 20, which has regularly pledged to “avoid all forms of protectionism” in previous years, removed that language from this year’s official communique. The removal is a significant win for the Trump administration, which reportedly went against the other 19 countries on an array of votes during the weekend conference. (Anything included in the final communique must be unanimously supported.)
The United States wanted to include explicit language that ensured “fair trade” between the nations, but was unable to get that included in the official communique, according to Bloomberg. The group failed to renew its commitment to free trade, another shift from past meetings.
The G-20, an international forum created in 1999 for the governments from 20 major economies, met in Baden-Baden, Germany, over the weekend, Mnuchin’s first official trip as America’s top finance man.
“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.”
During his Feb. 28 address to a joint session of Congress, Trump invoked former President Abraham Lincoln, a fervent supporter of protectionist policies, quoting the 16th president who in 1847 warned that “the abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.” (RELATED: Trump Praises Abraham Lincoln’s Protectionist Ideals)
Trump railed against international trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and former President Barack Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The president’s steady criticism of international trade deals, which were deeply unpopular in America’s rust belt, attracted working class voters and enough union members to flip a state like Michigan, which hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
In a recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the president asserted that the GOP had become the part of the “American worker.” (RELATED: Trump: The GOP Will Be The Party Of The American Worker)
Germany assumed the presidency of the G-20 in Dec. 2016 and will host leaders in Hamburg in July.
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