Mnuchin: US partners more comfortable with Trump on trade

The United States said on Saturday the world's other rich economies were getting used to the policy plans of President Donald Trump, but Europe and Japan showed they remained anxious about Washington's shift.

"People feel a level of comfort in understanding the Trump administration's policies, now that we have had the ability to interact a few times", Mnuchin told reporters Saturday after a two-day summit with G7 finance ministers and central bank chiefs. Trade is not formally on the agenda but that doesn't prevent ministers from taking the matter up in one-on-one meetings. He said counterparts understand that "we don't want to be protectionist, but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent we believe trade is not free and fair".

"Frankly no, we discussed it but we don't know anything", Bank of Italy chief Ignazio Visco said.

Whilst the message of the meeting was predominantly a repetition of the G20 meeting held in March, reiterating the nations' commitment to free trade, the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted the US no longer intends to contribute to strengthening worldwide trade ties between nations, putting their own economic interest first.

The ability of Mnuchin to speed forward with a pro-growth agenda has been thrown into question after U.S. President Donald Trump's firing of James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation chief this week provided an unwelcome distraction from policy.

The G7 meeting, gathering financial leaders from the world's seven developed economies, run from May 11 to May 13 in the southern Italian city of Bari. "Compared with a month or two months ago, the stiffness is gone".

The US is adamantly challenging the status quo in worldwide trade, and as a result, the most recent G7 meeting produced an indecisive communique, indicating the rising degree of uncertainty, possibly bearing the seeds of trade wars and greater currency manipulations in the global struggle for competitiveness.

US companies now pay tax on income earned outside the country, as well as within, and USA based multi-national corporations say that puts them at a disadvantage with foreign competitors.

"We reaffirm our fiscal and monetary policies have been and will remain oriented towards meeting our respective domestic policy objectives, using domestic instruments and we will not target exchange rates for competitive purposes", it said, underlining the importance of refraining from competitive devaluations. "I am quite confident that the development will continue, that the USA administration will engage more strongly in this process".

While the International Monetary Fund forecast in April that world economic growth will accelerate to 3.5 percent in 2017 and 3.6 percent in 2018 from 3.1 percent in 2016, some G-7 members referred to uncertainties in the global growth outlook, the official told reporters, requesting anonymity. That divergence augurs for potential disagreements when the nations' leaders gather in Sicily later this month - an event which marks Trump's first major worldwide summit as U.S. President.

"We need a strong United States, the United States needs the global economy and global economics on a sustainable way where the United States is still the most important political and economic partner and the best alliance for Europe", Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German Finance Minister, said. "These are points on which they continue to reflect".

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