Sum­mit opens amid slug­gish growth, trade

The Daily Herald - - NATION & WORLD - By Joe McDon­ald As­so­ci­ated Press

HANGZHOU, China — The Amer­i­can and Chi­nese pres­i­dents are call­ing on ma­jor economies to de­fend free trade at a sum­mit held as slug­gish growth and dis­putes over steel and other im­ports fuel de­mands in the United States and Europe to pro­tect lo­cal in­dus­try.

Open­ing the Group of 20 meet­ing, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping ap­pealed Sun­day for gov­ern­ments to re­sist pres­sure to raise trade bar­ri­ers. At the same time, a Euro­pean leader high­lighted the con­flicts loom­ing over the sum­mit by call­ing for ac­tion on China’s bloated steel in­dus­try.

China made trade a theme of the gath­er­ing in this lake­side city south­west of Shang­hai even as it faces com­plaints a flood of low-cost steel ex­ports are threat­en­ing U.S. and Euro­pean jobs, fu­el­ing de­mands for trade curbs.

“We should build an open world econ­omy,” Xi said be­fore an au­di­ence that in­cluded U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and lead­ers from Ja­pan, South Korea, In­dia and other gov­ern­ments.

Gov­ern­ments should “avoid tak­ing new pro­tec­tion­ist mea­sures” and “take ef­fec­tive ac­tion to pro­mote trade growth,” Xi said.

Xi called for in­no­va­tion to spur growth and reforms to global fi­nan­cial and eco­nomic management. He ap­pealed for co­op­er­a­tion in taxes and fight­ing cor­rup­tion, and for mea­sures to “im­prove the abil­ity of the world econ­omy to re­sist risks.”

China hopes its sta­tus as this year’s G-20 leader will in­crease its in­flu­ence in global eco­nomic management. Chi­nese of­fi­cials want the G-20, cre­ated to re­spond to the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, to take on a longer-term reg­u­la­tory role.

Other lead­ers have called for “in­clu­sive growth” — a ref­er­ence to ef­forts to spread the ben­e­fits of closer global in­te­gra­tion to mil­lions of peo­ple who have been left be­hind by wrench­ing change.

Obama stressed that theme at a sep­a­rate news con­fer­ence with May.

“We must all work to­gether to spur eco­nomic growth, to boost free trade and build a fairer econ­omy that truly works for all,” said Obama.

Also Sun­day, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Union’s gov­ern­ing body, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, called for ac­tion on China’s bloated steel in­dus­try.

The G-20 meet­ing “must ur­gently find a solution” to ex­cess steel pro­duc­tion, said Jean-Claude Juncker. He called on Beijing to ac­cept a mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism for over­pro­duc­tion that Beijing’s trad­ing part­ners blame for low prices and job losses.

China, the world’s big­gest steel pro­ducer, has com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing its pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity by 100 to 150 mil­lion tons by 2020, a pledge Xi re­peated Satur­day.

“Free trade must be fair trade,” Juncker said at a news con­fer­ence with Don­ald Tusk, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil.

An­other prom­i­nent is­sue at the sum­mit is G-20 mem­ber Bri­tain’s June vote to leave the 28-na­tion EU, seen by some an­a­lysts as the first in a wave of moves by other na­tions to re­treat from free trade.

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