G20 meeting avoids thorny trade question: Schaeuble

A high-level Group of 20 finance ministers meeting on Friday avoided discussing trade matters, even as governments on both sides of the Atlantic remain locked in tense negotiations on commerce.

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German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble gives a press conference as Germany ends its presidency of the G20 at the World Bank and International Monetary fund annual meetings on October 13, 2017 in Washington play

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble gives a press conference as Germany ends its presidency of the G20 at the World Bank and International Monetary fund annual meetings on October 13, 2017 in Washington

(AFP)
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A high-level Group of 20 finance ministers meeting on Friday avoided discussing trade matters, even as governments on both sides of the Atlantic remain locked in tense negotiations on commerce.

"We have not discussed on the trade issue specifically because it is not the main competence of the G20," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters at the close of the meeting.

Germany currently holds the G20's rotating presidency and the meeting coincided with this week's annual the International Monetary Fund and World Bank summit.

Trade questions have electrified politics in advanced economies in recent years, with resurgent protectionist forces rising to prominence.

In a nearby Washington suburb, US, Canadian and Mexican officials on Friday were in the midst of talks to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to scrap.

Talks between EU and British officials also deadlocked on Thursday over the future of trade relations between the single market and Britain, which voted to secede from the European Union last year.

"You may remember we had very difficult discussions since the beginning of our presidency, especially in our meeting in Baden-Baden," Schaeuble said.

At the Baden-Baden, Germany G20 meeting, US representatives succeeded in removing the habitual warning against protectionism from the meeting's concluding statement.

"At this time, global discussions are much more relaxed," Schaeuble said Friday.

He added that inaction was the greatest threat facing the global economy.

"In the given situation in which we have a good economic situation, I would say complacency maybe could be the biggest temptation," said Schaeuble.

It was the final G20 meeting for Schaeuble, for years one of the world's most influential economic chiefs, who set a hard line for fiscal discipline during the European crisis after 2009. He announced last month that he was stepping down as Germany's finance minister.

"My advice that I've always said is that the finance minister of Germany must not look too friendly," he added.

"Otherwise he supports complacency and that is wrong."

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