The current chair of the committee, Agustin Carstens, the governor of the Bank of Mexico, sought to cover over the significance of the decision by suggesting that the previous wording had been removed because “the use of the word protectionism is very ambiguous.”
In reality, the omission of any disavowal of protectionism is an unmistakable expression of mounting trade tensions, fueled above all by the Trump administration.
These conflicts could not be completely suppressed at the meeting. In his statement to the IMFC, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said
Germany “commits to keep the global economy open, resist protectionism and keep global economic and financial cooperation on track.”
This statement stood in stark contrast to the remarks of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said the US would
“promote an expansion of trade with those partners committed to market-based competition, while more rigorously defending ourselves against unfair trade practices.”
He directed his comment in particular against the two major countries, China and Germany, that have the largest trade surpluses with the US. Washington insists that the Chinese economy is not market-based, while members of the Trump administration have asserted that Germany enjoys unfair advantages because the value of the euro is lower than where its former currency, the deutschmark, would have been.
While not directly naming Germany, which recorded a record trade surplus last year, Mnuchin said that
“countries with large external surpluses and sound public finances have a particular responsibility for contributing to a more robust global economy.”