The world's top economic powers have dropped a pledge to fully oppose trade protectionism amid pushback from the USA government of President Donald Trump, who wants to favour American companies and workers more.
While delegates greeted Mr Mnuchin and said that he had been engaged in the process, it was not possible to reconcile the United States stance and that of the other members in any substantive way.
"We believe in free trade, we're one of the largest markets in the world, we're one of the largest trading partners in the world", Mnuchin said.
But as an offer of some reassurance, Mr Trump and Steven Mnuchin, the United States trade secretary, said this week that they don't want to start a trade dispute and that the United States is not pursuing isolationist goal. "I think that accurately reflects what we as a group talked about".
G-20 powers drop pledge to fight protectionism
President Donald Trump vowed to impose border taxes and rewrite free-trade deals. Mnuchin did, however, say that the United States still believed in free trade.
Officials may continue to seek greater consensus on the trade stance between now and the G-20 leaders' summit in Hamburg in July.
Advocates for free trade such as the International Monetary Fund say trade restrictions will only hurt growth and won't benefit ordinary people, while urging measures to spread the benefits of trade more widely. The US delegation refused to include any language rejecting protectionism in a final statement to be signed by ministers Saturday, the source said.
China and European countries had pushed for a stronger affirmation of cross-border trade without tariffs or barriers.
After scrambling to reach agreement, the G-20 representatives said they are "working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies".
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"On subjects that are so important, it's not up to the finance ministers to block or to walk back on the issue, there will not be any backsliding on such fundamental issues", he said. For French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, the problem is that Washington did not appear to have a clear position on trade. "We think that there's parts of the WTO that aren't being enforced and we've said that we will look to aggressively enforce things in the interest of American workers and to the extent that agreements are old agreements that need to be renegotiated we will consider that as well".
In a surprise to many, finance ministers also dropped any reference to climate change funding in their official statement, reflecting President Trump's commitment to deregulate the fossil fuels industry.
In the Trump administration's biggest clash yet with the worldwide community, G20 leaders also removed from their statement a pledge to finance the fight against global warming.
The G20 is a informal forum on economic cooperation between 19 countries plus the European Union. Its decisions don't have the same force as an worldwide treaty but simply depend on individual countries' promises to follow through on them.
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An official explained that the delegation would be flying on a smaller plane than normal and that press access would be limited. For decades, secretaries of state have almost always invited media to travel with them.