International Monetary Fund says trade tensions hinder growth

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. AFP

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. AFP

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she's "delighted" the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would like her company to increase transparency on commerce loopholes and financial debt growth in states like China, an effort she said has been already underway.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin today said rising debt levels in low-income countries threaten to generate significant economic and social instability and imperil hard-won developmental gains.

And although optimistic about economic growth over the next couple of years, the International Monetary Fund warns that aging populations, lacklustre productivity, rising debt and the possibility of a global trade war could lead to a downturn.

While the meeting with central bank chief Yi did not focus on trade, Mnuchin said he remained "cautiously optimistic" about the issue.

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.

The fund left its forecasts for global growth at 3.9 percent for this year and next, while warning that threats over trade could derail the strongest upswing since 2011. The U.S. 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.

They [the USA and China] are not in a trade war yet, but there's a risk of a trade war ... it would be fair to describe U.S. policy as unpredictable and also quite aggressive.

"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.

In recent weeks, however, both countries have hunkered down with neither moving forward on their threats as economists warn that a trade war would be a lose-lose scenario for both countries. "Ensuring that trade is free, fair, and reciprocal will boost global trade and support stronger, more sustainable growth".

The United States has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese imports to try to force changes in Beijing's industrial policies, which Washington says are aimed at acquiring North American intellectual property.

But it also expressed concerns over increasing trade and geopolitical tensions.

"It's definitely a job that we have been working, that we will continue working with, and now I am delighted he's supporting us" Lagarde said at a Facebook Live interview with CNBC at the IMF Spring Meetings in Washington.

"We agree that the IMF will need to consider the effects of technology and digitalisation in its macroeconomic analysis, including on inequality, productivity, labor and financial markets, fiscal policy, monetary policy, and measurement of the digital economy", it said.

"We have to keep this group working together", said Nicolas Dujovne, Argentina's treasury minister.

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