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When G-20 finance ministers and central bankers met in March, the joint statement lacked the standard pledge to resist protectionism. It was seen as a herald of changes in US trade policy under President Donald Trump. When leaders meet for the two-day G-20 summit starting today, there are likely to be more signals about those changes.
Trump has been combative in the lead-up to the summit, tweeting his displeasure with US trade deals and its trade partners. His attacks on Germany’s trade surplus continue, and there is a chance he will take on Chinese President Xi Jinping over China’s dumping excess steel on global markets.
The European Union and Japan have chosen this moment to formally unveil a new free trade deal—fortuitous timing, showing that the US pivot notwithstanding, their commitment to free trade has not diminished.
The US’s geopolitical and economic heft mean headlines about the end of US global leadership are premature. But to judge by these contrasting signals, the summit might give some indication about how other major economies mean to work around it.