German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble assailed the rise in protectionism and anti-free-trade sentiment Saturday in a statement that appeared aimed at the administration of US President Donald Trump.
“We should all be concerned about slow global trade growth and increased anti-free-trade rhetoric. Both are a threat to our common economic prosperity,” he said in a statement to the steering body of the International Monetary Fund.
“Trade has given millions of people the opportunity to move out of poverty, and it has provided stability and brought prosperity across the globe,” said Schaeuble, who has announced that he will resign after years as one of the world’s most influential economic chiefs.
“Protectionist measures will only harm growth and harm those they claim to protect,” Schaeuble added.
“We need more openness, not less.”
Schaeuble made the statement during the IMF’s annual meetings, which come after Trump, pressing an “America First” agenda in his inaugural year in office, killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asia-Pacific nations and forced a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump argued that the US was disadvantaged by those agreements and has also criticized the World Trade Organization, which enforces fair-trade rules.
But Schaeuble’s comments also took aim at the sentiment that drove British voters to support the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Schaeuble said Friday that the finance ministers and central bankers of the G20 group of leading economies avoided the trade issue in their meetings in Washington this week.
At the March 2017 gathering of G20 leaders in Baden-Baden, Germany, US representatives succeeded in removing a traditional warning against protectionism from the group’s concluding statement.
Without talk about trade, Schaeuble said Friday, “at this time, global discussions are much more relaxed.”