U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday that the overall U.S. economy has not been harmed by the trade battles set off by President Donald Trump's get-tough policies although some individual sectors have been hurt. He said the administration was exploring ways to help farmers and other specific industries that have been affected.
Mnuchin spoke to reporters on the sidelines of meetings of finance ministers and central bank presidents from the Group of 20 nations, composed of traditional economic powers such as the United States, Japan and Germany and emerging economic powers including China, Brazil, India and Argentina.
Mnuchin said that there had not been an adverse effect on overall growth from the tariffs but that certain industries were being harmed because other countries were retaliating by targeting specific industries.
"Certain countries have targeted very specific levels of things that are not coincidental," Mnuchin told reporters. "So if you are looking at lobsters in Maine or you are looking at bourbon in Kentucky or you are looking at soybeans, there are clearly markets being followed."
Mnuchin said that the administration would be "looking at different opportunities to help the farmers" and provide assistance to other sectors being "unfairly targeted" by tariffs from other nations.
"But I still think from a macro basis, we do not see yet any impact on what's a very positive growth" performance for the U.S. economy this year, Mnuchin said.
At a briefing before the G-20 meetings began, U.S. Treasury officials told reporters that Mnuchin would be prepared to respond to concerns being raised by other countries about the Trump administration's trade policies.
Also speaking in Buenos Aires at the G-20 summit, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the recent series of trade tariffs would significantly harm the global economy.
"In the worst case scenario under current measures" the impact on the global economy "is in the range of 0.5 percent" of gross domestic product on a global basis, Lagarde said.
The United States and China are now in a full-blown trade war with both nations imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods with even bigger tariffs being threatened. Despite the standoff, U.S. officials said Mnuchin had no individual meetings scheduled with China during the G-20 meetings. Mnuchin did have about a dozen one-on-one sessions scheduled with other countries.
In a recent appearance before the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin said that the talks with China had broken down and indicated that the United States was waiting for China to come up with concessions to break the impasse.
The United States and China have hit each other with tariffs on $34 billion goods with another $16 billion in penalty tariffs in the pipeline. The Trump administration is preparing to impose tariffs on another $200 billion and Trump has threaten4ed to add $300 billion more to that figure.
On Saturday, the Treasury Secretary said the U.S. administration has been very clear that the objective is to have a more balanced trading relationship with China.
"We purchased about $500 billion of goods from them; they purchased about $130 billion of goods from us. We share a desire to have a more balanced relationship. And the balanced relationship is by us selling more goods," Mnuchin said.
In addition to the sessions of the G-20, there will be an hour-long meeting among G-7 finance ministers and central bank officials. Treasury officials said part of this meeting would be to allow G-7 officials to discuss China's unfair trade practices
AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger in Washington contributed to this story.