"G20 finance ministers have lost their way" says Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, Barry Gardiner, responding to the G20 decision to drop their pledge to oppose protectionism.
"Just as the protectionism of the 1930s prolonged the Great Depression so the new American president is in danger of strangling emerging global growth in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It makes no sense for G20 finance ministers to say that they are going to grow their economies but retreat behind protectionist barriers. Trump's influence on the G20 has been hugely damaging. In bowing to his protectionist rhetoric G20 finance ministers have lost their way and backed down when they should have been going on the offensive.
"The fact is that America is already the most protected market in the developed world with almost 1100 protectionist policies and discriminatory trade measures. Compare that with the next most strongly protectionist countries: India and Russia on about 550, Germany, Brazil and the UK at about 300 or China at less than 250. Instead of meekly accepting the new line from Washington, Philip Hammond should have howled down Steve Mnuchin, the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
"The implications of American protectionism are particularly acute for the UK. We currently have a balance of trade surplus with the United States. Trump would like to reverse that. But we need to expand that surplus considerably if we are to compensate for the reduction in UK exports to the EU that will almost certainly occur after Brexit comes into effect.
"President Trump's rhetoric is as dangerous as it is appealing; because it reflects real problems of wage depression and job losses that have resulted from globalisation and automation. It is important that we understand that unfettered free trade has not only created greater wealth around the globe, it has also aggravated inequalities. These must be addressed because the people who have been left behind deserve to have their voices heard.
"Instead of being quiescent and abandoning their commitment to global trade in response to Trump's 'America First' dictum, G20 finance ministers should have been insisting that putting up walls and barriers can only lead to a stifling of the growth we all need. Instead we must come together to create a rules-based system that can promote trade that is free but above all, that is fair."