World finance officials reject anti-trade attacks
WASHINGTON, D.C. — More protection for workers harmed by free trade is the best way to counter growing attacks on globalization, say world finance leaders disdainful of new trade barriers.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Saturday urged the 189-nation International Monetary Fund to “more boldly and forcefully” push member countries to pursue all economic policy options to spur growth.
In the face of a backlash against globalization, Lew said it was important to ensure broad sharing of the benefits from expanded trade.
“We must not close ourselves off to the world, but rather redouble our commitment to ensuring shared growth,” Lew told the IMF’s policy committee.
Global finance officials were concluding three days of talks Saturday with meetings of the policy committees of the IMF and its sister lending organization, the World Bank.
The meetings come at a time growing unhappiness with globalization, reflected in a June vote in Britain to leave the European Union and the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has focused on his complaints about illegal immigration and America’s huge trade deficits.
Trump has threatened to impose punitive tariffs on countries such as China and Mexico that he feels are pursuing unfair trade practices and costing millions of American jobs.
But officials at these meetings say that a decades-long effort to tear down trade barriers has lifted millions of people in poor nations out of poverty. Officials say the problem is that not enough has been done to protect workers who have lost jobs because of the greater competition from developing countries.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters that countries need to do more to remove obstacles to free trade at a time of protectionist sentiment. He said free trade had expanded the global economy since World War II and remained crucial for driving global growth.
Added IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde: “If we really want jobs and higher income, if we care about poverty reduction and economic fairness … if we care about growth, then we need to be serious about fostering global trade and about making sure that global trade works for all.”
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim noted the “tremendous anger against trade.” But, he said, “We are here because we believe in our mission of ending extreme poverty,” Kim said. “We are not going to do it without more robust trade.”
Before the IMF and World Bank meetings, finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 major economies renewed a pledge to utilize all the policy tools at their disposal to combat what has been an anemic global recovery from the Great Recession triggered by the 2008 financial crisis.
The G-20 includes traditional economic powers such as the United States, Germany and Japan and emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India.
Concerns about financial markets were highlighted earlier Friday when the British pound plunged sharply, sliding 6 percent in just a couple of minutes to its lowest level in more than three decades, before rebounding.
British Treasury chief Philip Hammond, in Washington for the finance meetings, said the plunge was the result of a growing realization of investors that Britain is proceeding with plans to leave the EU. Markets have also been roiled in recent days by worries about the health of Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank.