Finance ministers from the world's biggest economies on Saturday failed to get the USA to renew an anti-protectionist pledge and a vow to fight climate change, in the face of Donald Trump's "America First" push.
The gathering of finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of 20 countries has focused on shifting attitudes toward trade, particularly after U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to impose border taxes and rewrite free-trade deals.
On Thursday, he also revealed a budget plan that would make good on a campaign pledge to drastically scale back environment-related funding.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday shrugged off an outcry over the omission of a long-standing anti-protectionist pledge from a G20 statement, saying language used in the past is "irrelevant".
A source close to the negotiations said that "there will be nothing on climate in the communique - a sign of the discord".
Delegates said the United States team was unable to commit as they had not been given instructions from Washington to do so at the meeting in the western German spa town of Baden-Baden. On trade, Washington is calling into question the current global trade regulation system under the World Trade Organisation - a move which the source said is "unacceptable".
"Our heads of states are meeting in a few weeks".
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Finance ministers reportedly attempted to draft new language that would satisfy the US on the question of bilateral trade.
The divisions between the US and other major powers over trade were on display again Friday, when Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. He also rejected a description of his policies as "isolationist".
The U.S. imports about $2.7 trillion in goods and services annually, with half coming from G20 members China, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Germany.
Trump and other critics of free trade argue that it can cause jobs, such as in the labor intensive manufacturing sector, to move to lower-cost countries.
Deputies assigned to work out the details ahead of time had to leave the matter for the ministers, who held the first of their sessions late Friday afternoon German time at the two-day meeting in the town of Baden-Baden in southern Germany. After speaking by telephone, the two leaders of the world's biggest exporters said in a statement issued in Berlin that they would "together fight for free trade and open markets".
Wolfgang Schaeuble, the finance minister of host country Germany, sought to play down any disagreements.
Advocates for free trade such as the International Monetary Fund say trade restrictions will only hurt growth and won't benefit ordinary people, while urging measures to spread the benefits of trade more widely. Without mentioning a country by name, he said, "Maybe one or the other important member state needs to get a sense of how worldwide cooperation works".