Another global anti-protectionist pledge is poised to die

23 April, 2017, 02:13 | Author: Celia Hoffman
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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Saturday dropped its pledge to resist protectionism in trade, a sign the Washington-based lending institution is accommodating President Trump's anti-globalization stance. We welcome the IMF's important work providing technical assistance to member countries to strengthen their regulatory and supervisory frameworks with respect to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. The president has already backed down from a campaign pledge to officially label China a currency manipulator.

Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens, the IMFC chairman, said most countries have some trade restrictions and that protectionism was an "ambiguous" term. Lagarde noted that strong language condemning protectionism and promoting efforts to combat climate change, while taken out of the communique, remained in a separate document setting out the IMF's policy agenda.

"There is no country that does not have any proviso or restriction on trade", Carstens said in a news conference.

Throughout the presidential campaign a year ago, Trump pointed to closed factories around America and said they represented a failure of past presidents to be tough enough in negotiating trade agreements to protect U.S.jobs. "There is evidently a need to better communicate the benefits of trade and globalization". Since taking office, Trump has pulled the United States out of a 12-nation Pacific trade agreement negotiated by the Obama administration and just this week ordered the Commerce Department to speed up an investigation into whether steel imports posed a national security threat.

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And US pressure at a meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers in Germany last month forced the group to strike the commitment against protectionist policies, in place since the early days of the 2008 financial crisis - a position credited with helping to prevent the Great Recession from becoming worse than the 1930s recession.

The G-20 finance officials generally agreed with the assessment made by the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday in its latest economic outlook - that global growth should pick up this year, helped by improving conditions in the United States and China, the world's two biggest economies.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso sought to downplay concerns about rising protectionism, saying that he believed free trade, which has fueled global growth since the end of World War II, would be upheld but perhaps with some changes.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated that the US focus will be on "more rigorously defending ourselves against unfair trade practices" including against countries with large surpluses. The latest growth forecast by the Bretton Woods institution, however, falls conservatively short of the more upbeat revised economic growth forecast by Zimbabwe for the year.

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