Sources: Language on WTO, 'reciprocal' trade causes roadblocks in negotiations for G20 communiqué

July 10, 2017

HAMBURG -- Negotiations for a joint statement on trade at the G20 leaders summit are running into similar roadblocks to previous negotiations for communiqués under the Trump presidency, including wording on protectionism and “reciprocal” trade -- which the U.S. administration has pushed for in every joint statement with foreign leaders -- and whether the World Trade Organization would be described as playing a “central role,” sources told Inside U.S. Trade.

[Jenny Leonard | July 7, 2017 | Inside US Trade]

Sources said the critical questions centered around whether the statement will include a “clear rejection” of protectionism, as well as “unambiguous support” for the WTO. Some countries, including the U.S., are said to be pushing for avoidance of language that stressed the “central role of the WTO” or the “multilateral trading system” and instead wanted to refer to the “international” trading system.

Expectations for the WTO ministerial in December are also being discussed, but sources said that including language on working toward “success” at the meeting could potentially be feasible for all countries. EU leaders earlier this week stressed that G20 members needed to contribute to “concrete outcomes” on several issues at the Buenos Aires conference, but U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer made clear the U.S.' intention was not to seek “major deliverables or significant negotiated outcomes.”

Concluding the 2016 G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, leaders reaffirmed their “determination to ensure a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization playing the central role in today’s global trade.”

They also committed to “fight all forms of protectionism” -- a phrase that has been central to previous joint statements, including at the G20, and that the new U.S. administration has been trying to alter in every negotiation to date.

Sources said the debate over such language is also taking place within the White House and the Trump administration, with National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin aiming for a more “globalist” view on trade, and senior advisers Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Read more at Inside US Trade

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