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US Defends Tough Trade Stance          04/21 09:59

   The United States is resisting pressure to back off President Donald Trump's 
tough America First trade policy at a meeting of global finance leaders worried 
about the threat of a damaging trade war.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States is resisting pressure to back off 
President Donald Trump's tough America First trade policy at a meeting of 
global finance leaders worried about the threat of a damaging trade war.

   U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin charged that "unfair global trade 
practices impede stronger U.S. and global growth, acting as a persistent drag 
on the global economy." He urged the International Monetary Fund to do more to 
combat unfair trade practices.

   Mnuchin issued the comments Friday during the spring meetings of the 
189-country IMF and its sister lending agency, the World Bank. The three days 
of meetings wrap up Saturday.

   Other countries have used the gathering to protest Trump's protectionist 
trade policies, which mark a reversal of seven decades of U.S. support for 
ever-freer global commerce. "We strongly reject moves towards protectionism and 
away from the rules-based international trade order," said Mr Gu?mundsson, 
governor of the Central Bank of Iceland. "Unilateral trade restrictions will 
only inflict harm on the global economy."

   The countries struggled to find common ground with Washington over trade. 
But they agreed on the importance of coordinating other economic policies in an 
effort to sustain the strongest global economic expansion since the 2008 
financial crisis.

   "We have to keep this group working together," said Nicolas Dujovne, the 
Treasury minister of Argentina. In addition to wrangling over trade, finance 
officials from the Group of 20 powerful economies focused on two other threats 
to growth --- geopolitical risks and rising interest rates.

   Dujovne, whose country is chairing the G-20 this year, met with reporters 
Friday to summarize talks the G-20 finance officials had held as a prelude to 
the IMF-World Bank meetings. The United States was represented at the G-20 
talks by Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who was attending 
his first G-20 gathering after taking over the top Fed job from Janet Yellen in 
February.

   Trump's tough turn on trade has dominated the meetings.

   The administration has rattled financial markets with a series of 
provocative moves in recent weeks. Last month, it slapped taxes on imported 
steel and aluminum. Next it proposed tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese products 
to sanction Beijing for its aggressive efforts to obtain U.S. technology. China 
counterpunched by targeting $50 billion in U.S. exports. Trump then ordered his 
trade representative to target up to $100 billion more in Chinese products.

   Instead of sounding conciliatory over trade, Mnuchin called on the IMF to go 
beyond its traditional role as an emergency lender for countries in financial 
crisis and strengthen its monitoring role of individual country's trade 
practices, especially nations running large trade surpluses.

   "The IMF must step up to the plate on this issue, providing a more robust 
voice," Mnuchin said. "We urge the IMF to speak out more forcefully on the 
issue of external imbalances."

   Meantime, other countries repeatedly sounded warnings about a potential 
trade war. "The larger threat is posed by increasing trade tensions and the 
possibility that we enter a sequence of unilateral, tit-for-tat measures, all 
of which generate uncertainties for global trade and GDP growth," Roberto 
Azevdo, director-general of the World Trade Organization, told the IMF's 
policy committee.

   French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned Friday that American tariffs 
on steel and aluminum imports could lead to retaliation by other countries and 
"a significant risk that the situation could escalate." He said "tensions 
between the US and China have taken a worrying turn."

   Despite the trade disputes, the global economy is enjoying its strongest 
growth in years.

   The IMF forecasts 3.9 percent growth this year and next, the fastest since 
2011, thanks to increasing investment and solid job growth. And most of the 
world is sharing in the prosperity, making this the broadest economic expansion 
in a decade.


(KA)

 
 
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