Since helping to mitigate the global financial crisis, the G20 has degenerated from a platform for action to a forum for discussion. In the age of Donald Trump, it could sink even further, becoming a vehicle for legitimating illegal behavior, from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to Saudi Arabia’s murder of a journalist... Now, instead of jostling for pictures of Trump and Xi, the world’s media will be dissecting interactions between MBS, accused of ordering the brutal torture and murder of the US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Those between Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel – which would have been uncomfortable even without the recent attack on Ukraine – will also be heavily scrutinized... None of this is the point of a G20 summit. What used to be an effective forum of global governance has now degenerated into a kind of Kabuki theater – a faithful reflection of the extent to which the global order has lost its way... After the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, the G20 acted as an international crisis committee, mitigating the disaster by injecting liquidity into markets worldwide. The effectiveness of the G20’s 2008 and 2009 summits raised hopes that, at a time of rapid change, this emerging platform, comprising economies accounting for 85% of world output, could serve as a global fire brigade. Not bound by procedural rules or legal strictures, the G20 could respond quickly when needed. There was even talk of the G20 intervening in a wider range of areas, potentially even eclipsing the United Nations Security Council.
BADEN-BADEN, Germany—U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rebuffed a concerted push by world finance chiefs on Saturday to disavow protectionism, fanning fears that the Trump administration’s pursuit of an “America First” policy could ignite global trade conflicts.
.. At a news conference, Mr. Mnuchin said earlier language on protectionism “was not necessarily relevant from my standpoint.”
He also warned that some global trade agreements weren’t being enforced, and that the new administration would be aggressive in doing so.
.. Mr. Schäuble said at a news conference that Mr. Mnuchin appeared to have no mandate to negotiate any new or creative commitments on trade.
.. Brazil Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles told the G-20 about his country’s own experience with protectionism as the country has just experienced its worst recession on record.
“We had adopted during the last years some protectionist measures for some sectors of the economy and the net result was not positive,”
.. Evidence that it may just be too soon for the U.S. to offer the G-20 anything substantive on trade, financial regulation, tax overhauls and other policies, Mr. Mnuchin relied on senior civil servants to conduct much of the detailed negotiations at the meeting.
.. If trade czar Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon, a top Trump adviser and self-described economic nationalist, have their way, many officials fear the White House could trigger a trade war. The administration has advocated applying unilateral actions that eschew a rules-based multilateral order, including submission to the World Trade Organization’s authority.
.. The U.S. delegation found a rare ally in Japan, which came to the defense of Mr. Mnuchin, saying talks over American protectionism were overblown.