Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

G7 nations to agree joint fight against cyber attacks: draft

G7 nations to agree joint fight against cyber attacks: draft

BARI, Italy Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Saturday that he was gradually seeing the course of USA economic policies after a two-day gathering of Group of Seven financial leaders in the southern Italy.

"We must not back pedal on free trade as it has contributed to economic prosperity", Mr Aso said. Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met behind closed doors in the afternoon, while an official ceremony to welcome the other participants was scheduled at the Petruzzelli theatre in the evening.

Mnuchin had said that global trade should be "fair" and "reciprocal" during the G20 meeting in March, and his refusal to change his stance on the matter during this most recent G7 meeting stirs greater uncertainty in worldwide trade as the existing global consensus is perceived as crumbling without the active support of the world's largest economy.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States reserved the right to be protectionist if it thought trade was not free or fair.

President Donald Trump's administration "is committed to protecting Americans and the global financial system from the constantly evolving threat of cyberattack. and Treasury will play a leading role in this critical national security effort".

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Italian officials also said it's unclear whether G7 finance ministers will have anything specific to say on tax reform at the end of their meeting on Saturday. The secretary arrived in Bari saying he was "excited" about US trade policies after the announcement of a deal to boost exports of gas and beef to China, an agreement that was also noted by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. "We don't want to be protectionist, but we reserve our rights to be protectionist if we don't believe trade is free and fair".

"What is new is the will to provide a framework in which outline all policy tools - structural, fiscal, financial, and social - necessary to sustain growth, and ensure it leaves no one behind", Padoan said.

Finance ministers and central bank governors from the world's seven biggest economic powers have kept their watered-down promise to promote free trade, as the new United States administration's reluctance to commit to a full-throated defence against protectionism remained firm.

Earlier, the finance officials warned that long-term growth could remain subdued and that steps need to be taken to make the global economy work for everyone.

Whilst the final communique included some wording referring to fighting inequality and financial inclusiveness of the global economy as a desirable target, Mnuchin's view of a better model of worldwide trade as rather "fair" instead of "free" prevented a G7 consensus on the matter.

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"All the six others. said explicitly, and some very directly, to the representatives of the USA administration that it is absolutely necessary to continue with the same spirit of global cooperation", said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

The US refused to abandon its protectionist stance as the G7 - composed of the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada - continued to wrangle over a common trade policy.

Finance ministers also said that countries would have to do more to distribute growth more equally.

The group's agreements, presented in the form of a final statement, aren't legally binding; instead they represent the leaders' political commitment to follow through.

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