Taro Aso, Japan's deputy prime minister and finance minister, delivers his policy speech at the lower house of parliament in Tokyo in this Oct. 24, 2018, file photo. (Reuters Photo//Toru Hanai)

Japan Finance Minister Urges G-20 to Renew Commitment Against Protectionism


JANUARY 18, 2019

Tokyo. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on Thursday urged the Group of 20 major economies to renew their commitment to cooperation in the face of rising protectionism.

Speaking at the G-20 meeting of deputy finance ministers and deputy central bank governors before the finance leaders' meetings under Japan's chair later this year, Aso warned that protectionism and unfair trade practices would undermine economic stability.

"Dissatisfaction with economic inequality is growing. There is a serious risk that we will revert to a closed and fragmented world," Aso said in his opening remarks at the G-20 gathering.

The comments come at a time of growing trade tensions between the United States and China, which have already started to impact global investment and economic growth. The tariff dispute is set to further chip into China's economy this year, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

"Protectionism and unfair trade practices lead to instability and perverse economic outcomes. We must renew our commitment to international cooperation and openness," Aso said.

Japan wants to focus on issues ranging from global trade imbalances to the impact of aging populations on the agenda when it chairs this year's G-20 financial leaders meetings.

Global imbalances had once been a key topic at G-20 meetings with a focus on each country's current-account balance, or the overall flow of money including, but not confined to, trade.

This approach has come up against President Donald Trump's focus on narrowing the US trade deficit using import tariffs and bilateral deals. His "America First" policies and the US-China trade war have overshadowed debates at recent G-20 meetings.

Japan will host a G-20 financial chiefs' meeting in Fukuoka in western Japan on June 8-9, followed by a leaders' summit in Osaka on June 28-29.