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Trump administration reportedly blocks anti-protectionist statement at G-20 meeting

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 19. (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 19. (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

The Trump administration on Saturday reportedly rejected anti-protectionist language in a statement by finance chiefs of the world's most important economies after a summit meeting in Germany.

A communique from finance ministers and central bankers, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, after the Group of 20 meeting failed to include a phrase included after other recent meetings that the nations would reject protectionism.

"We are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies," said the communique issued Saturday after the two day summit in Baden-Baden.

After the last G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors, in Chengdu, China in July, the communique said, "We will resist all forms of protectionism." 

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Saturday the group was unable to agree on trade language this time.

“That’s why at the end we said nothing on [avoiding protectionism], because it meant different things when we said we didn’t want protectionism," he said, according to the Financial TImes.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen represented the U.S. at the German summit. It was Mnuchin's fist appearance on the world stage as the Trump administration's leader on financial issues.

“I understand what the president’s desire is and his policies and I negotiated them from here, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” Mnuchin said at a news conference Saturday after the summit, according to the Washington Post.

Pierre Moscovici, the European Union's economics commissioner told the Wall Street Journal that “it was not the best communique that was ever produced by the G-20, certainly.” 

The move came as President Trump has vowed to pursue an "America first" agenda that includes striking better trade deals. He has pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership pact and wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

"I don't believe in an isolationist policy. But I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy," Trump said at a news conference Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. And that's going to stop," he said.

1:00 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the German Finance Minister.

12:10 p.m.: This article was updated with information from the German summit's communique.

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