Saturday, May 13, 2017 | 6:01 a.m.
BARI, Italy — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says major trading partners "are much more comfortable" with the Trump administration's trade policies and understand U.S. growth will benefit them.
Mnuchin spoke after face-to-face meetings with major trade partners such as Germany, Japan and Canada at the Group of Seven finance ministers' meeting in Bari, Italy.
Mnuchin said his meetings with finance leaders had led to better understanding of the U.S. president's position that trade must be fair and balanced as well as open. He said they understand that "we don't want to be protectionist, but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent we believe trade is not free and fair."
Earlier, the finance officials warned that long-term growth could remain subdued and that steps need to be taken to make the global economy work for everyone.
They also called for a renewed common effort against cybercrime, a timely message in the wake of Friday's ransom ware attacks in dozens of countries.
The gathering in a 13th-century seaside fortress in the southern Italian town of Bari is paving the way for a meeting of national leaders in Taormina, Sicily May 26-27. The G7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom; the European Union also attends the informal forum.
Italy, the host country for the informal forum this year, wanted the meeting to produce separate statements about fairer growth and fighting tax evasion.
Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said that Saturday's morning session on cybercrime was "unfortunately very timely," an apparent reference to the wave of ransomware attacks reported Friday in dozens of countries in which files were locked and money demanded to unlock them.
The group's agreements, presented in the form of a final statement, aren't legally binding; instead they represent the leaders' political commitment to follow through.