Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, center, attends a Group of 20 (G-20) finance ministers and central bank governors group photo. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trade Tensions Threaten Global Economic Growth, G-20 Cautions

(Bloomberg) -- Trade tensions threaten global growth as the engines of leading economies fall out of sync, the world’s top finance chiefs warned on Sunday.

Global growth remains robust and many emerging-market countries are better prepared to face crises, but risks to the world economy have increased, finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 nations said in a statement published at the end of their two-day summit in Buenos Aires.

The main risks are “rising financial vulnerabilities, heightened trade and geopolitical tensions, global imbalances, inequality and structurally weak growth,” the statement read. Emerging markets also face threats including market volatility and capital outflows, according to the G-20. The group’s March statement didn’t mention trade tensions.

Trade Tensions Threaten Global Economic Growth, G-20 Cautions

Trade dominated discussions over the weekend after President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to levy tariffs on additional imports from China worth billions of dollars. While Australia and Canada said the U.S. remains committed to free and open trade,
Europeans had tougher language for the U.S. administration on trade.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire over the weekend urged the U.S. to return to reason and said the EU would not negotiate trade issues "with a gun to the head."

No FX Debate

Officials said they reaffirmed their exchange rate commitments made in March, when they pledged to refrain from competitive devaluations. Prospects of an intense debate on currencies had dramatically increased on Friday when Trump accused the EU and China of manipulating their foreign exchange rates to obtain trade benefits and said a strong dollar and rising Fed interest rates were undermining U.S. competitiveness.

Mnuchin said at the weekend that Trump was not trying to intervene in the currency market and fully supported Federal Reserve independence. And the currency issue didn’t come up during Saturday discussions, according to Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Trade Tensions Threaten Global Economic Growth, G-20 Cautions

Despite escalating tensions, it was important to convey a positive message during the meetings to protect investor sentiment, Australia’s Treasurer Scott Morrison told Bloomberg News. He added that no country has been pursuing “protectionism for protectionism’s sake.”

“There are some grievances that have been around for a decade,” Morrison said. “There is legitimate frustration about the failure of the system to resolve the issues that concern the U.S. and others.”

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