Over the weekend G20 Finance Ministers dropped their long-standing pledge to ‘resist all forms of protectionism’, instead stating in a communique that they are ‘working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies’. The change of wording comes after the Donald Trump’s new US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted that the traditional line of opposing protectionism was no longer relevant and said the new administration in the US was now looking for balanced trade over lower border tariffs, in line with Trump’s ‘America First’ statements. On leaving the meeting Mnuchin said ‘This is my first G20, so what was in the past communique is not necessarily relevant from my standpoint’, adding ‘I understand what the president's desire is and his policies and I negotiated from there’ He also seemed happy that he got his way, as unlike most of his counterparts he described the meeting as ‘incredibly productive’ whilst insisting ‘couldn't be happier with the outcome’.
It was not just the protectionism issue that the US put a spanner in the works of at the meeting. The US, along with Saudi Arabia has stopped any mention of funding action on climate change. Under the previous Chinese G20 presidency, there was a call on all governments to implement financial commitments in a timely way the agreement signed on combating climate change at the Paris climate accord. Again the US administration was quick to give its point of view, with Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, believing that spending money to fight climate change ‘was a waste of Americans money’ adding ‘I think the president is fairly straightforward. We're not spending money on that’.
All this comes off the back of the first meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. It has been reported that Merkel read a Playboy interview with Trump in preparation for the meeting. According to Trump the pair had a ‘great’ meeting although it did not stop Trump tweeting afterwards that ‘Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO and the United States must be paid for the powerful, and very expensive, defence it provides to Germany’.