Japan finmin urges G20 to renew commitment against protectionism

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso arrives at G-20 plenary
FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso arrives at G-20 plenary during the IMF/World Bank spring meeting in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

January 17, 2019

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on Thursday urged the Group of 20 major economies to renew their commitment to cooperation in the face of rising protectionism.

Speaking at the G20 meeting of deputy finance ministers and deputy central bank governors before the finance leaders’ meetings under Japan’s chair later this year, Aso warned that protectionism and unfair trade practices would undermine economic stability.

“Dissatisfaction with economic inequality is growing. There is a serious risk that we will revert to a closed and fragmented world,” Aso said in his opening remarks at the G20 gathering.

The comments come at a time of growing trade tensions between the United States and China, which have already started to impact global investment and economic growth. The tariff dispute is set to further chip into China’s economy this year, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

“Protectionism and unfair trade practices lead to instability and perverse economic outcomes. We must renew our commitment to international cooperation and openness,” Aso said.

Japan wants to focus on issues ranging from global trade imbalances to the impact of ageing populations on the agenda when it chairs this year’s G20 financial leaders meetings.

Global imbalances had once been a key topic at G20 meetings with a focus on each country’s current account balance, or the overall flow of money including, but not confined to, trade.

This approach has come up against President Donald Trump’s focus on narrowing the U.S. trade deficit using import tariffs and bilateral deals. His “America First” policies and the U.S.-China trade war have overshadowed debates at recent G20 meetings.

Japan will host a G20 financial chiefs’ meeting in Fukuoka in western Japan on June 8-9, followed by a leaders’ summit in Osaka on June 28-29.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Shri Navaratnam)

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