Indonesian president says trade wars too destructive
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo added to a chorus of criticism Friday over trade friction between the U.S. and China, telling financial leaders gathered in Bali, Indonesia, that victory in a trade war would be pointless in a “sinking world.”
Widodo’s comments at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank came as share markets rebounded after The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported that U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping may meet at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, late next month.
Much attention at the finance meetings in this tropical resort has focused on threats to growth from the uncertainty and disruptions associated with trade friction. A bout of turmoil in financial markets this week added to the sense of urgency over the issue.
Widodo, who often sprinkles his speeches with references to movies, underscored those worries in his opening speech as host of the IMF-World Bank meeting.
“The balance of powers and the alliances among major economies are breaking down. Weakness in coordination and cooperation has caused many problems, including the dramatic rise in the price of crude oil and turmoil in the currency markets of developing economies,” he told the gathering of financial officials, central bank governors and experts.
Instead, attention should be focused on slowing growth and disruptions from new technologies that are turning many industries “upside down,” he said.
In an allusion to the popular TV series “Game of Thrones,” he said fighting among the “great houses” was distracting them from the threat of an “evil winter.”
“Victory or defeat in wars always brings the same result — destruction,” he said, drawing a standing ovation. “It’s pointless to become the leading economy in a sinking world.”
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, offered no specifics about a potential Xi-Trump meeting, saying only that China had noted the reports and maintains “communication on dialogues and exchanges at all levels” with the U.S.
In a statement released Thursday, the senior American official in Bali, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, pointed to relatively strong U.S. economic indicators as evidence policies meant to nurture sustained growth are working.
He urged the IMF to identify countries that use economic, foreign exchange, and trade policies to “contribute to unfair competitive advantages.”
The Trump “administration is committed to achieving a fair and reciprocal trading and investment relationship with all of our partners, including China,” he said. “We welcome the IMF’s work on tariff and non-tariff barriers, and we encourage the IMF to focus on less open trade regimes in order to play a constructive role in promoting global solutions.”
Finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of 20 industrial nations wrapped up their meeting in Bali with no major announcements.
Asked about the tussle between Washington and Beijing over technology policy and trade, Argentine Finance Minister Nicolas Dujovne said the G-20 does provide a ground for discussing such issues.
But he added, the “difference that persists should be resolved between those countries.”
Friday’s IMF-World Bank meeting began with a moment of silence for victims of recent disasters, including a Sept. 28 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 2,000 people on another Indonesian island, Sulawesi, and left perhaps thousands buried in mud.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the disasters were a reminder of the institution’s mission of helping countries build resilience and deal with disasters, manage debt levels and invest in their people to prepare for the future, while helping to alleviate poverty and promote economic growth.
“Every day that you don’t build human capital, your economy, and your country, will fall farther and farther behind,” Kim said, noting that when he was born in 1959, South Korea, now an affluent manufacturing powerhouse, was among the poorest countries in the world, with a literacy rate of only 23 percent.
Associated Press writer Hau Dinh contributed to this report.