Canada calls softwood lumber duties 'baseless' in meeting with United States counterpart

Lucy Hill
May 14, 2017

Mnuchin, who skipped the opening session in Bari where academics spoke on inequality and growth, arrived long after other ministers and told reporters he was "excited" about the emerging new USA trade policy.

United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, is flanked by Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, following their bilateral talks, at the G7 of Ministers of finance, in Bari, southern Italy, Friday, May 12, 2017.

A statement released by the Department of Finance says Morneau and Mnuchin engaged in a "productive discussion" and that Canada committed to working out a durable solution of the issue.

"Global recovery is gaining momentum, yet growth remains moderate and GDP is still below potential in many countries, with the balance of risks tilted to the downside", the leaders said in the communique.

The agenda of the summit, that is being attended by finance ministers and banking representatives of the world's seven most industrialised nations, began at 8.40 a.m.in the city of Bari, with a symposium with reputed economists, Efe news reported.

One partner openly pushing back was Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who rejected as "baseless" duties the US imposed on some Canadian lumber imports. But Mnuchin said trade was discussed "a lot" and his counterparts have become "more comfortable" with the administration's agenda.

The Italian hosts say the meeting themes will include making economic growth benefit more people; coordination among global financial organizations such as the worldwide Monetary Fund and the World Bank; and efforts to stop companies from dodging taxes by moving income across borders.

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Even with the apparent thaw in relations, the USA still stands apart from the rest of G-7 on trade, climate change and other issues.

Making sure big companies pay tax means less burden on "locally based middle class citizens" and small businesses which can't move their income among countries.

Mnuchin is taking the opportunity to lay out the Trump administration's views on trade. They'll also look for ways to promote growth and combat terrorist financing and tax avoidance by major corporations.

Officials arriving on Thursday for talks in the Southern Italian port of Bari - a crossroads of commerce for more than two millenia - downplayed any focus on their festering disagreement after two abortive Group of 20 discussions this year suggested the Trump administration won't sign up to the long-existing global consensus on free trade.

Whilst the message of the meeting was predominantly a repetition of the G20 meeting held in March, reiterating the nations' commitment to free trade, the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted the US no longer intends to contribute to strengthening global trade ties between nations, putting their own economic interest first.

The finance meeting paves the way for a meeting of national leader in Sicily May 26-26.

Besides ministers and governors from the Group of Seven - comprising Canada, the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and Japan, top officials from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also joined the meeting.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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