By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday the White House did not want to start international trade wars but sought “free and fair” trade.
Mnuchin made the comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He attempted to downplay comments he made a day before about a weaker U.S. dollar being good for U.S. trade. Those comments sent the value of the dollar spiraling to its lowest level since the end of 2014.
Speaking Thursday, Mnuchin highlighted that the U.S. was not trying to restrict trade.
“We want free and fair and reciprocal trade,” he said at a press conference. “So I think it’s very clear. We’re not looking to get into trade wars. On the other hand, we are looking to defend America’s interests.”
Mnuchin also told reporters he held “productive” talks with representatives from China about the trade imbalance between China and the U.S. He said President Donald Trump and Chinese officials agreed that trade between the two nations should become more equal.
“We think it is one of the largest growing markets and we want U.S. companies to participate in an open way," he said.
Trump landed in Davos Thursday, and many around the world eagerly await his speech scheduled for Friday. Trump has rattled global markets since he was inaugurated a year ago by pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and threatening to undo the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Earlier in the week, he imposed large tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.
Davos, the annual gathering of global political elites and billionaires, is both the natural environs for an internationally connected businessman like Trump as well as an antithetical gathering to the “America First” protectionism he ran on as a candidate. It is an open question as to which persona he will strike on Friday.