"I regret that our discussions today were unable to reach a satisfying conclusion on two absolutely essential priorities that our world and which France would have liked to see the G20 continue to take firm and concerted action on". They also said the USA delegation at the G-20 was routinely checking back with its counterparts in Washington on certain issues, leading some Europeans to wonder with whom they were negotiating, Mnuchin or Trump.
"This is my first G20, so what was in the past communiqué is not necessarily relevant from my standpoint", US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the German resort town of Baden Baden.
The world's top economic powers have dropped a pledge to fully oppose trade protectionism amid pushback from the US government of President Donald Trump, who wants to favor American companies and workers more.Finance ministers at a Group of 20 meeting in Germany issued a statement Saturday that said only that countries "are working to strengthen the contribution of trade" to their economies.
He said: "We believe in free trade", but added "balanced trade needs to be what's good for us and what's good for other people, a win-win situation".
Worldwide trade makes up nearly half of global economic output and officials said the issue could be revisited at a meeting of G20 leaders in July.
"We want to reexamine certain agreements, we have talked about reexamining NAFTA", he told journalists, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States.
The exclusion of the two issues in the communique was disappointing, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said.
Host German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble however struck a conciliatory tone, suggesting that Mnuchin was not empowered to act on some issues. It's completely clear we are not for protectionism. "But it wasn't clear what one or another meant by that".
Germany managed to rescue some of the previously common G20 language supporting free trade and open markets in a separate document adopted by policymakers in Baden-Baden.
Others suggested that the G20 leaders' meeting in Hamburg this July could be the real opportunity to bring the U.S. on board. "I hope in Hamburg the wording will be different".
References to action against climate change under the Paris Accord were also scrapped from the G20 statement unlike at a previous summit a year ago.
Trump has suggested global warming was a "hoax" concocted by China to hurt USA industry and vowed to scrap the Paris climate accord aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Donald Trump has said his "America First" mantra will be key to the U.S. approach to trade.
Under his first national budget proposal, he suggested cutting financial resources for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a third, as well as eliminating contributions linked to United Nations climate change programmes.
The G20 did, however, show continuity in its foreign exchange policies, using past phrases on currency markets.
"We reaffirm our previous exchange rate commitments, including that we will refrain from competitive devaluations and we will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes", the G20 said.
Although the government is also reviewing financial regulation, Mnuchin pledged support for the now stalled Basel III accord, a major global attempt to regulate lenders consistently.