China rallies Brics nations to stand up to Trump

Group agrees to fight trade protectionism as US threatens tariffs on most Chinese imports

US President Donald Trump speaking after touring a Made in America Product Showcase in the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2018.
US President Donald Trump speaking after touring a Made in America Product Showcase in the Cross Hall of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BUENOS AIRES • China has rallied the support of the biggest developing economies to push back against protectionism as US President Donald Trump threatens to impose tariffs on almost all Chinese imports.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - known as the Brics grouping - have agreed to "fight against trade protectionism together" after a meeting during the Group of 20 (G-20) summit of finance ministers and central bankers in Buenos Aires, the Chinese Finance Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

Brics should "firmly support economic globalisation and multi-lateralism, and unequivocally oppose unilateralism and protectionism in any form", as the global economy faces increasing uncertainties and instability, Finance Minister Liu Kun told the meeting of the Brics nations.

The comment came ahead of a summit of the grouping in Johannesburg from tomorrow to Friday.

Mr Liu also urged his counterparts to push for advanced nations to adopt responsible economic policies and monitor closely the pressure on capital flows in emerging markets brought about by policy changes in developed nations, according to the statement.

At the meeting, Mr Liu also pledged China's support to improve infrastructure in Brics and other developing countries. The officials also discussed issues including emergency reserves for the members and illegal capital flows.

The meeting came after Mr Trump said he is "ready to go" with US$500 billion (S$682 billion) in tariffs on imports from China, and accused the Asian country and the European Union of weakening their currencies to obtain trade benefits.

United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin landed in Buenos Aires for the G-20 summit last Friday with the risk of a currency war in the air. However, he left two days later with the world's top finance chiefs feeling much more at ease.

Mr Mnuchin over roughly 48 hours tamped down concern of any shift in currency policy, hammering home in a press conference early last Saturday that America's long-standing commitment to a strong greenback remains intact.

He also said the US is not trying to intervene in the dollar market.

Nevertheless, the finance ministers and central bank governors from the world's 20 largest economies warned that growth, while still strong, was becoming less synchronised, and downside risks over the short-and medium-term had increased.

"These include rising financial vulnerabilities, heightened trade and geopolitical tensions, global imbalances, inequality and structurally weak growth, particularly in some advanced economies," the G-20 finance officials said in a communique.

"We... recognise the need to step up dialogue and actions to mitigate risks and enhance confidence," the communique said.

This marked a strengthening of language compared to their previous statement issued in March, in which they simply "recognise the need for further dialogue".

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said progress is unlikely as long as the US tries to use duties as leverage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2018, with the headline 'China rallies Brics nations to stand up to Trump'. Subscribe