G7 ministers take aim at cybercrime

Andrew Cummings
May 26, 2017

Today's meeting in the southern Italian town Bari is paving the way for a meeting between the G-7 leaders in Taormina, Sicily in May 26-27.

Before the G7 meeting, several ministers and officials held an early-morning discussion of Greece's long-running debt crisis to prepare for a May 22 meeting of euro zone finance ministers on the disbursement of new loans.

Among US partners in the club of wealthy democracies there is concern that Trump's arrival in the White House could herald a new era of protectionism - although officials complain mainly that they don't have any visibility on Washington's intentions.

"All the six others. said explicitly, and sometimes very directly, to the representatives of the USA administration that it is absolutely necessary to continue with the same spirit of worldwide co-operation", Sapin was quoted by Reuters as saying.

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 previous year to avoid protectionism in all its forms.

Yet, he added, "We don't want to be protectionist, but we reserve our rights to be protectionist to the extent that we believe that trade is not free and fair".

The German G7 source said a draft communique had been unanimously agreed by all G7 representatives at a meeting on Friday and Saturday in Bari, Italy, and that a final approval by the ministers was needed.

A senior Treasury official said Mnuchin's finance counterparts haven't been "shy about asking direct questions" about Trump's plans to reform the US tax code.

The rhetoric caused alarm among other members of the G7 club of wealthy democracies, who are lobbying Trump's team to stick with the existing system of rules-based, largely liberalised global trade.

Asked how pro-active the US delegation had been on the first day of the G7, France's Sapin said they had been "quite discreet in their presence", and he appeared to take a swipe at Trump's frequent use of Twitter.

Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, the G7 host, said Trump's plan to slash taxes on businesses was "ambitious" and he was keen to hear more about it from Mnuchin.

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.

In their closing statement, the finance ministers warned that long-term growth could remain subdued and that steps need to be taken to make the global economy work for everyone.

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.

A "Bari Policy Agenda" signed at the meeting would provide an overall framework within which the G7 governments would try to foster a more inclusive growth through such tools.

According to Reuters, "other ministers from the G7 countries made it clear they did not share [Mnuchin's] view".

Other reports by iNewsToday