G-20 calls for more dialogue on rising trade tension
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Christine Lagarde, right, International Monetary Fund managing director, and Argentina Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne arrive for a news conference during the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank governors Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina • The world’s top financial officials called Sunday for more dialogue on trade disputes that threaten global economic growth, with one warning that differences remain and tensions could escalate further.

The two-day meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 nations came as the United States clashes with China and other nations over trade, with the nations imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of the other’s goods.

A final communique said that although the global economy remains strong, growth is becoming “less synchronized” and risks over the short and medium terms have increased.

“These include rising financial vulnerabilities, heightened trade and geopolitical tensions, global imbalances, inequality and structurally weak growth, particularly in some advanced economies,” the communique said. “We ... recognize the need to step up dialogue and actions to mitigate risks and enhance confidence.”

On Friday, President Donald Trump renewed his threat to ultimately slap tariffs on a total of $500 billion of imports from China — roughly equal to all the goods Beijing ships annually to the U.S. The White House has also itemized $200 billion of additional Chinese imports that it said may be subject to tariffs.

The U.S. has also imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, including from Europe. China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey have counterpunched with taxes on U.S. goods. EU tariffs on American products include Harley-Davidson motorcycles, cranberries, peanut butter, playing cards and whiskey.

EU financial affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned that such disputes are a threat.

“Protectionism, I want to insist on that, is good for no one,” Moscovici told reporters. “Trade wars are not easy … they create no winners, only casualties.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disputed that protectionism is the issue.

“People are trying to make this about the United States and protectionism. That’s not the case at all,” he said at a news conference. “This is about the United States wanting fair and free trade. … We very much support the idea that trade is important for the global economy, but it’s got to be on fair and reciprocal terms.”

Mnuchin said there had been no “substantive discussions” with China about trade during the meeting. Asked what it would take to re-start talks with the Asian giant, he said, “Anytime that they want to sit down and negotiate meaningful changes, I and our team are available.”

As the gathering wound up, Moscovici said differences of position remain despite talks.

“These meetings have been taking place in an international context which is very challenging. … Trade tensions remain high and they threaten to escalate further,” he said.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, has warned that a wave of tariffs could harm the global economy.

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