G7 commit to tackling cyber attacks

Andrew Cummings
May 25, 2017

"Our objective is to create opportunities for American workers to make things and export them", said Mnuchin, pointing to the administration's recent move to allow US farmers to sell beef to China.

G7 finance ministers prior to the Bari summit.

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde arrives for the opening session of the G7 of Finance ministers in Bari, southern Italy, Friday, May 12, 2017.

But finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven leading nations avoided tackling one of the biggest worries among global policy makers: whether the Trump administration's America-first trade policies are setting the world's largest economy on a protectionist course.

The United States has been told by all the other Group of Seven economies that it must not turn its back on worldwide cooperation on global economic policy, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on Saturday, DNA reported. Trade is not formally on the agenda but that doesn't prevent ministers from taking the matter up in one-on-one meetings.

The meeting focused on finance and security issues such as keeping multinationals from dodging taxes and a collective response to cybercrime like the ransomware attack that hit dozens of countries on Friday.

Reflecting tensions over Trump's attitude to protectionism, there will be no formal discussion of trade in Bari, Italian Treasury officials said.

But unlike a G7 leaders' communique of 2016, the financial leaders in Bari did not endorse free trade and reject protectionism, reflecting pressure from the United States where President Donald Trump has signalled his scepticism about free trade deals. 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". According to The AP, "one partner openly pushing back was Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who rejected as "baseless" duties the US imposed on some Canadian lumber imports. We are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies", the G7 communique read. "I am quite confident that the development will continue, that the US administration will engage more strongly in this process".

Mnuchin's presence was overshadowed by a political firestorm in Washington after Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation chief James Comey, whose agency was investigating links between the president's 2016 election campaign and the Russian government. "We're going to try to get this done as quickly as we can". But he offered little detail.

Bank of France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau said there was a "light breeze" of optimism within the G7 about the recovering global economy after years of sluggish growth following the financial crisis that began almost a decade ago.

The statement also stressed the need for common practices to detect vulnerabilities in the global financial system.

And the timing of the discussion couldn't be more apt.

Instead in the two-day meeting in the southern Italian port city of Bari they have been focusing on inequality, worldwide tax rules and cyber security but Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble had a message for Washington.

Trade issues were pushed to the sidelines in Bari, with host Italy seeking to find areas of overlap between Trump's still vague agenda, and the priorities of Washington's chief European partners (Britain, France, Germany, Italy), as well as Canada and Japan.

The ministers agreed to mandate the G7 Cyber Expert Group to develop "a set of high level, and non-binding fundamental elements for effective assessment of cyber security" by October.

A Group of Seven communique issued on Saturday said officials were "working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies" - a weaker pledge than the statement from the Group of 20 leaders a year ago to avoid protectionism in all its forms.

Other reports by iNewsToday