US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejects the idea that under President Donald Trump the United States is reviving protectionism, yet asserting that the US would still do that if “trade is not free and fair.”
The American banker and former hedge fund manager made the comments in the Italian port city of Bari, where finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven nations ended their two-day meeting on Saturday.
“We do not want to be protectionist but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent that we believe trade is not free and fair... Our approach is for more balanced trade, and people have heard that," Mnuchin told reporters. "And as I say, people are more comfortable today, now that they've had the opportunity to spend time with me and listen to the president and hear our economic message."
Representatives from the six other rich countries were hoping to hear what Trump’s plans are amid fears that he would harm global trade.
According to French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, all the other rich countries unanimously called on US to respect global trade.
"All the six others ... said explicitly, and sometimes very
directly, to the representatives of the US administration that it is absolutely necessary to continue with the same spirit of international cooperation," he told reporters.
Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau also spoke of a "light breeze" of optimism within the G7 about recovering the global economy.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso had earlier urged G7 members not to “backpedal on free trade as it has contributed to economic prosperity."
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the southern Italian city in a march dubbed “Throw down the G7!”