ANALYSIS-Global finance leaders find a more temperate Trump in Washington


Reuters

By Howard Schneider and Jan StrupczewskiWASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) - Donald Trump took power in
January pledging to overhaul a global order that he said cheated
middle-class Americans with a promise to tear up trade
agreements and impose tariffs on China and Mexico.
    Some of Trump's policy advisers named allies like Germany
and Japan as possible targets for economic retaliation.
    Fast-forward almost 100 days into Trump's presidency and the
world's most powerful finance officials, gathered in Washington
for the International Monetary Fund spring meetings, have found
an administration that is far from the disruptive force Trump
promised.
    Although Trump did act on his campaign promise to tear up a
12-nation Pacific trade pact that had been the cornerstone of
President Barack Obama's Asian pivot, he has taken a much softer
stance on other issues. He has refrained from pulling out of the
North American Free Trade Agreement, did not carry out a pledge
to label China a currency cheat, and his administration has
signaled the United States may stay in the Paris climate accord.
    Constraints being put on Trump by Congress and the courts on
issues ranging from healthcare to immigration that would have
filtered into the economy and the slow pace with which he is
filling key administration jobs have played a role. And some
foreign policy makers say they are still not sure who their
counterparts are in the Trump administration.
    But these policy makers said that important initial
decisions have been far more centrist than might have been
expected. The European Union's commissioner for economic and
financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, summed up a widely shared
sentiment as he highlighted how two people at the top of Trump's
economic team - Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn,
director of the National Economic Council - have curbed the
worst fears over the young U.S. presidency.
    "We have the feeling that Mnuchin and Cohn are sensible
people with whom we can discuss things, who are conscious of
what an open economy requires," Moscovici told Reuters in an
interview.
    The European Union's view of a more pragmatic administration
was shared by Mexico, which attracted some of Trump's greatest
ire. Trump's threat to impose punitive tariffs on Mexican
exports sent the peso currency tumbling, but it has since
recovered.
    Mexico's finance undersecretary, Vanessa Rubio Marquez, said
 discussions with the Trump administration so far have become
"anchored" around a handful of issues "that Mexico would be able
to deal with."
    "There is still a lot of uncertainty," she said in a seminar
on Wednesday. But "dialogue has been more structured, more
constant."

    "FREE E*TRADE WILL CONTINUE"
    What Trump might mean for the U.S. and world economies has
preoccupied central bankers, investors and analysts since the
new president took office promising a virtual revolution in the
way the United States relates to the rest of the world.
    Though much about Trump's policies remain unformed as the
administration approaches the 100-day mark, the more extreme
risks - such as a trade war or a budget-busting fiscal program
that unhinges inflation - seem to have receded.
    "My belief is that a multilateral framework promoting free
trade will continue. There won't be huge changes to that," Bank
of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters on Thursday.
    In remarks on Thursday, Mnuchin said tax reform remained a
priority as are other steps to boost U.S. growth. But he said
the hope for faster growth would mean a stronger world economy,
and that it was constructive to coordinate policies through
international organizations like the Group of 20.
    "This administration is willing to reach out and get ideas
from the outside," Mnuchin told top-level bankers at a
conference organized in parallel with the IMF meeting.
    There are still risks. The Trump administration said on
Thursday it would embark on a study of whether cheap steel
imports from China and other countries were damaging national
security. And there are still huge gaps in personnel at key
bodies like Treasury and Commerce.
    "Many of the top jobs are still vacant," said one European
diplomat who was attending the IMF meetings and spoke on
condition of anonymity.
    "Nobody outside the U.S. really knows who is the most
powerful or influential one at moment," the official said.

 (Reporting by Howard Schneider and Jan Strupczewski; Additional
reporting by Leika Kihara and Gernot Heller)
 ((howard.schneider@thomsonreuters.com;))

Keywords: IMF G20/TRUMP (ANALYSIS)



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