U.S. urges world bankers to address unfair trade practices

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin hints that he'll travel to China for trade talks after tensions over tariffs.

U.S. urges world bankers to address unfair trade practices

"We can not live with full confidence with the risk of being hit by those measures and by those new tariffs", Le Maire told a news conference during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings.

"The IMF must step up to the plate on this issue, providing a more robust voice", Mnuchin said.

Such trade policies "impede stronger US and global growth, acting as a persistent drag on the global economy", Mnuchin said as the lending agencies were poised Saturday to wrap up their spring meetings, where the administration's "America First" approach has put it at odds with other countries.

Much of the jockeying is likely to play out at meetings starting on Thursday of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 and Saturday's broader gathering of International Monetary Fund member nations.

"We need to pivot where we are", International Monetary Fund First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton said in an interview on Bloomberg TV.

But US President Donald Trump's top finance official said the fault lies with countries that employ unfair trade policies. "We strongly reject moves towards protectionism and away from the rules-based worldwide trade order", said Már Guðmundsson, governor of the Central Bank of Iceland.

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The Washington-based agency said this week that the U.S. government's growing budget deficit, which is likely to top USD1 trillion annually - some 5% of gross domestic product - will only widen the country's trade gap.

"We have to keep this group working together", said Nicolas Dujovne, Argentina's treasury minister.

Meanwhile, French Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire on Friday said that the European Union needs to be exempted from steel and aluminum tariffs announced by the U.S. to work with Washington on trade with China.

It was a surprising omission for the group that was key to shepherding the global economy through the 2008 financial crisis and preventing another depression. He noted that in addition to rising trade tensions, the G-20 finance officials focused on two other threats to growth from geopolitical risks and rising interest rates as the Federal Reserve and other central banks accelerate rate hikes to guard against inflation. Dujovne, whose country is chairing the G-20 this year, met with reporters Friday to summarize talks held as a prelude to the IMF-World Bank meetings. Trump then ordered his trade representative to go after up to $100 billion more in Chinese products.

The U.S. has rattled financial markets with a series of provocative moves in recent weeks.

"Contacts in various sectors including manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation expressed concern about the newly imposed and/or proposed tariffs", according to the report, which covered the period from March to early April. Last month, it slapped taxes on imported steel and aluminum.

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China has threatened retaliation against USA exports if Washington pushes ahead with the tariffs.

Meantime, other countries repeatedly sounded warnings about a potential trade war.

The overriding message of officials meeting in Washington this week has been that trade tensions between the USA and China risk eroding business and investor confidence, even as global growth enjoys its best upswing in years.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report, while global trade will be overshadowed by the ongoing dispute between China and the United States, appetite for new free-trade deals will continue in the rest of the world including those involving India.

Europe was also hit by the steel and aluminum tariffs but the United States suspended the duties on imports from the EU, Canada, Mexico and four other countries, leaving China as the primary target.

"Our assumption that protectionism will rise, but that a trade war will be averted, means that global trade growth will continue to slow in 2019-22, to an average of 3.5 per cent a year", the EIU report said.

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