IMF warns that tariffs are hurting global economy

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IMF’s Christine Lagarde attends a news conference in Buenos Aires. Reuters

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned world economic leaders on Saturday that a recent wave of trade tariffs would significantly harm global growth, a day after US President Donald Trump threatened a major escalation in a dispute with China.

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IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she would present the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Buenos Aires with a report detailing the impacts of the restrictions already announced on global trade.

“It certainly indicates the impact that it could have on GDP (gross domestic product), which in the worst case scenario under current measures…is in the range of 0.5 pct of GDP on a global basis,” Ms Lagarde said at a joint news conference with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne.

Her warning came shortly after the top US economic official, Treasury Minister Steven Mnuchin, told reporters in the Argentine capital there was no “macroeconomic” effect yet on the world’s largest economy.

Long-simmering trade tensions have burst into the open in recent months, with the United States and China – the world’s No. 2 economy – slapping tariffs on $34 billion worth of each other’s goods so far.

The weekend meeting in Buenos Aires comes amid a dramatic escalation in rhetoric on both sides. Mr Trump on Friday threatened tariffs on all $500 billion of Chinese exports to the United States.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will try to rally G7 allies over the weekend to join it in more aggressive action against China, but they may be reluctant to cooperate because of US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the European Union and Canada, which prompted retaliatory measures.

The last G20 finance meeting in Buenos Aires in late March ended with no firm agreement by ministers on trade policy except for a commitment to “further dialogue.”

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he would use the meeting to advocate for a rules-based trading system, but that expectations were low.

“I don’t expect tangible progress to be made at this meeting,” Mr Scholz told reporters on the plane to Buenos Aires.

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