The failure of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs to spell out effective steps to combat protectionism during their meeting in Buenos Aires last weekend highlighted the limitations of the G20 as a multinational forum to tackle common threats to the global economy. The G20 — comprising major advanced economies along with emerging powers like China — came to the fore as such a venue when the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers in the United States triggered a global recession. Its function to guide a way out of international economic problems through policy coordination by the major economies, however, has been crippled since the launch of the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, which would not hesitate to put America’s own interests over common international concerns.

Japan, which will serve as the G20 chair in 2019, needs to work persistently with other economies to try to persuade the U.S. to rethink of its protectionist policies that pose an increasingly serious threat to global growth. While pursuing its own agenda to beef up multilateral free trade schemes, Tokyo should keep sending the message that protectionism will not benefit anybody and will cause damage to all, including the U.S.

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