Mnuchin expresses optimism trade standoffs can be resolved

China's economy grew a forecast-beating 6.8 percent in the first quarter, official data showed on April 17, overcoming Beijing's battle on financial risk and pollution and trade tensions with the US. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2018
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Mnuchin expresses optimism trade standoffs can be resolved

  • “We are cautiously optimistic,” US treasury secretary says of trade talks with Chinese counterparts
  • China's commerce ministry welcomes prospect of US visit to discuss trade issues

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank repeatedly warned at their meetings this week that intensifying trade tensions could jeopardize a healthy global economic expansion.
But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed cautious optimism Saturday that countries could settle their differences without a trade war.
Mnuchin met during the past three days with financial officials from China, Japan and Europe over a series of punitive tariffs unveiled by the Trump administration against China and other trading partners.
In a session with reporters, Mnuchin refused to say how close the United States was to resolving the various trade disputes, but he did say progress had been made.
The United States and China are on the brink of what would be the biggest trade dispute since World War II. Each has proposed imposing tariffs of $50 billion on each other’s products; President Donald Trump is looking to impose tariffs up to $100 billion more on Chinese goods.
In a speech earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to open China’s market wider to foreign companies, raising hopes the dispute with Washington could be resolved. Mnuchin said he discussed Xi’s proposals with Chinese officials. “We are cautiously optimistic,” Mnuchin told reporters, saying that he may soon travel to Beijing for further talks.

 

The Commerce Ministry in Beijing said Sunday that China welcomes a visit from the US to Beijing to discuss trade issues and confirms it has “received information” regarding Washington’s interest in such a trip.
Trade tensions dominated the three days of talks among top finance officials attending meetings of the Group of 20 major economies, the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending agency, the World Bank.
The officials roundly criticized Trump’s get-tough approach to trade, a reversal of seven decades of US support for increasing freedom in global commerce. In his speech to the IMF’s policy committee Saturday, Yi Gang, the head of China’s central bank, said that global growth could be hurt by “an escalation of trade frictions caused by unilateral actions,” an obvious reference to America’s threatened tariffs against China.
Mnuchin insisted that the United States was not trying to provoke a global trade war but seeking to protect American jobs from unfair competition. “The president has been very clear on what our objectives are,” Mnuchin said. “We are looking for reciprocal treatment. This is not about protectionism.”
There were signs of conciliation. The US dropped its objection to the first increase in the World Bank’s capital resources since 2010, clearing the way for the bank’s board to OK a $13 billion increase in its capacity to make loans to poor countries. The move was tied to a package of reforms the US had sought.
Both the World Bank and IMF held meetings of their policy committees on Saturday. In a closing communique, the IMF expressed concern that the rising trade tensions could dim what at the moment are bright prospects for the global economy, which is expected to grow this year at the fastest pace since 2011.
“Trade tensions are not to the benefit of anyone,” said Lesetja Kganyago, who leads the policymaking committee and is governor of the South African Reserve Bank. “If there is a trade conflict, there could never be winners. We could all only be losers.”
On Friday, Mnuchin had called on the IMF to do more to police countries running large trade surpluses, a role that has traditionally been left to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization. The final IMF communique did state: “We will work together to reduce excessive global imbalances in a way that supports global growth.” The communique did not spell out how this would be accomplished.

FASTFACTS

$50 billion

The proposed level if tariffs by China and the US on each other's products.


Stronger US dollar unlikely to derail bullish view on commodities — Goldman Sachs

Updated 21 September 2018
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Stronger US dollar unlikely to derail bullish view on commodities — Goldman Sachs

  • The dollar has been lifted by a stronger-than-expected US economy, the world’s largest
  • A stronger greenback makes the purchase of dollar-denominated international commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies

BENGALURU: Goldman Sachs said a stronger dollar is unlikely to derail its bullish view on commodities, which are likely to find support from physical shortages.
The dollar has been lifted by a stronger-than-expected US economy, the world’s largest, and that’s a positive sign for global growth, the US investment bank said.
The US dollar index has lost more than 1 percent this week, but this follows months of strong demand over US-China trade-related tensions, as investors bet the greenback would gain at the expense of riskier currencies.
“The risk aversion this summer created significant emerging market destocking, particularly in China, as consumers attempted to avoid a strong dollar and tariffs by liquidating inventories,” Goldman said in a note dated on Thursday.
A stronger greenback makes the purchase of dollar-denominated international commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies, making buyers and users more likely to draw on any stored materials in preference to imports.
“This liquidation, however, has a physical limit with Chinese destocking having already created significant increases in physical (premiums) for oil and metals – a sign of physical shortages.”
Going forward, oil had a strong fundamental outlook helped by US demand growth, supply losses and disruptions, and still constrained US shale output, Goldman said.
The bank said its near-term Brent crude oil price target remained at $80 a barrel.
The bank said it was moderating its bullish view for gold due to a sell-off in emerging markets, and it lowered its 12-month price forecast for the metal to $1,325 per ounce, down from $1,450 an ounce earlier.