The Trump administration on Saturday, at G-20 finance ministers meeting in Baden-Baden, rejected a statement from other leading economies that warned against the perils of trade protectionism, after German officials insisted to include in the meeting’s joint statement language stressing the importance of free trade and that it should be conducted in a “rules based” manner, following existing standards and agreements.
The White House sent a clear signal that it would not accept existing trade norms. Several European officials and one former U.S. official who had attended past G-20 meetings said it was the first time the United States had blocked such an effort. Trump also made opposition to free trade a cornerstone of his presidential campaign and pulled the United States out of a sweeping Asia trade deal shortly after taking office. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the United States was at an “impasse” with others about what they should say on trade protectionism, so they decided to say nothing at all. He added that “sometimes at such meetings you cannot reach all the results that you may want to achieve because you cannot force partners to go along with wording they are not happen with.” The final agreement, which contained just a brief generic reference, saying “we are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies.”