G20 leaders fail to reach agreements on free trade

Finance ministers from the world's biggest economies on Saturday dropped an anti-protectionist pledge and a vow on action against climate change, after Washington refused to sign up to the commitment.

The draft of final joint communique of meeting, which gathered G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs, has been agreed and includes provisions on global trade, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said on Saturday.

We are all convinced that the global trade may strengthen our economies.

European delegations have also explicitly rejected protectionism.

The impasse reflects the atmosphere the previous day at the White House, where U.S. President Donald Trump met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and repeated his complaints that his country has been treated "very, very unfairly" in trade arrangements.

As host nation, Germany has attempted to broker a compromise over the wording on trade that is to be included in the meeting's final statement. Europe was keen on adding that trade should be "rules-based", meaning subject to rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The world's top economic powers have failed to agree on a joint position explicitly opposing trade protectionism amid pushback from the US government.

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The aim was to reduce a glut in global oil supply that has depressed prices, which now stand at around $48-$51 per barrel. Broadening the picture, new data for total OECD oil stocks confirms the legacy of higher production previous year .

In his first global meeting since he was sworn in, Mnuchin said "the historical language was not really relevant". "Having said that, we want to re-examine certain agreements".

Breaking a decade-long tradition of endorsing open trade, G20 finance ministers and central bankers made only a token reference to trade in their communique on Saturday, a clear defeat for host nation Germany, which fought the new USA government's attempts to water down past commitments. Without mentioning a country by name, he said, "Maybe one or the other important member state needs to get a sense of how global cooperation works". The U.S., represented by Steven Mnuchin in his first appearance at an worldwide forum as Treasury Secretary, argued that trade arrangements need to be made fairer, in line with the administration's claims the U.S. has had a bad deal from the current setup. He also said an overhaul of the USA tax code was overdue and that the United States would rethink regulations put in place after the Great Recession. Still, the dialogue was friendly and non-confrontational, leaving the door open to a future deal, officials who attended the meeting said.

"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", he said. But one of the European officials said this was not uncommon for a new administration, which was still formalizing its viewpoint on an array of complicated matters.

The G-20 is an informal forum on economic cooperation made up of 19 countries plus the European Union.

The statement issued by finance ministers at the G20 meeting was milder than 2016's.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble speaks during a news conference during the G20 finance ministers meeting in Baden-Baden, southern Germany, Saturday, March 18, 2017.

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