Mnuchin Says U.S. Reserves Right To Be Protectionist

He said the Trump administration's economic policies aren't directly aimed at pursuing policies that would restrict trade, but rather are meant to spur US growth and aid the global economy.

A two-day meeting of finance ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) concluded in Italy Saturday with the United States continuing to oppose a free trade commitment between leading Western industrial nations.

Italian G7 officials said Trump's tax proposal is not part of the weekend's agenda, but foreign counterparts are following developments in Washington very closely. However, Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, said on Saturday that the topic came up in several of the bilateral meetings held on the sidelines of the meeting.

At a news conference in Bari, Italy, where finance ministers from the Group of Seven nations gathered, Mnuchin said, "We do not want to be protectionist but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent that we believe trade is not free and fair". The US government sees domestic growth objectives in each as crucial for achieving significant improvements in global economy, but the rest of the G7 seems to think otherwise, seeing global trade as key source of growth.

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We want to see the killing, the frightful killing, stopped in Syria as soon as possible and everyone is working toward that end. Several ceasefires have been agreed on since Syria's conflict broke out, but they have failed to stem the fighting.

"People are much more comfortable today now that they've had the opportunity to spend time with me and listen to the president and listen to the economic message on what the economic agenda is, and that's about creating growth in the United States", he told reporters after the meeting.

Mnuchin, whose participation was overshadowed by a political storm in Washington, arrived saying he was "excited" about USA trade policies after the announcement of a deal to boost exports of gas and beef to China.

The meeting prepares the way for a summit at the level of presidents and prime ministers in Taormina, Sicily, on May 26-27. The discussions will be private and are expected to last for four hours.

Recalling his discussions with Mnuchin and other G-7 counterparts, Aso said he thinks Mnuchin "has mostly erased concern that (the new US administration) may transform free trade into protectionism".

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Mr Mnuchin said the opening-up of the market for beef sales to China was a "huge deal" for the administration and for United States farmers.

A Canadian ministry statement says Morneau and Mnuchin engaged in a "productive discussion" and that Canada committed to working out a durable solution of the issue.

While formal negotiations have yet to begin, Mnuchin expressed optimism that the countries would be able to fix the trade agreement in a way that would be a win for all three countries.

Finally, the G7 meeting did not address trade and the risks of protectionism, officials said. Angus Deaton, an economics Nobel Prize-winner, told delegates at a closed-door event held on Friday morning that inequality in the USA was reducing the life expectancy of the white middle class. Mr Mnuchin did not attend the talk, according to two people familiar with the matter.

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He also said that it is increasingly important that infants exposed to hepatitis C are monitored to see if they get the virus. Symptoms of hepatitis C infection include fever, abdominal pain nausea, loss of appetite, joint pains, vomiting and jaundice.

Among the issues officially on the table are transnational tax evasion, including the policing of web-based multinationals, combating the financing of terrorism, defending financial institutions from cyber attacks and how to ensure that the benefits of growth are more evenly shared.

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