World finance leaders gathered in Washington for the annual summit of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The meeting opened with some good news: the world economy is expected to grow at 3.5 percent this year – better than the 3.1 percent originally forecast.
“We’re encouraged to see stronger economic prospects after years of disappointing global growth. There are still many downside risks, however,” Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, said.
One of those risks: a trend toward protectionism and away from free trade, putting the group at odds with President Trump, who made trade reform a major issue on the campaign trail.
And at the White House, he signed a new memorandum aimed at limiting Chinese steel imports – and encouraging more domestic production in the U.S.
“For decades, America has lost our jobs and our factories to unfair foreign trade,” President Trump said.
But the IMF and World Bank are in agreement with the world’s big economies: free trade has been a major driver of economic growth.
And IMF officials are hoping President Trump’s polices will boost growth in the U.S., reversing what they see as a growing trend toward isolationism.
“From the various contacts that I’ve had with the administration so far, I have every reason to believe that we will make progress,” Christine Lagarde, with IMF, said.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the warnings about protectionism are “rubbish,” and the U.S. is looking at ways to reduce its huge $500 billion trade deficit – and limiting new import taxes.