The world's top economic powers dropped a pledge to oppose trade protectionism after push-back from President Donald Trump's administration, which wants trade to more clearly benefit American companies and workers.
President Trump has been critical of current global trade which he sees as having damaged America's domestic industry. G-20 officials warned the US risks starting a tit-for-tat trade war if it acts too aggressively, but Mnuchin said Washington wants to avoid trade wars while seeking to rebalance off-kilter economic relationships.
G20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors will next meet at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, in April.
It is also a sad day for environmentalists, as the fight to control climate change can stifle without the support of G20 countries.
"I think what led to the conclusion was every party in the room recognizing that trade was positive for our economies", Morneau said.
"We underscore the role of open trade policies and a strong and secure global trading system in promoting inclusive global economic growth, and we will make further efforts to revitalize global trade and lift investment".
"It was totally undisputed that we are against protectionism". Its domestic policies have made these changed priorities clear: last week, the Trump administration proposed a 31% budget cut for the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The United States wanted to include explicit language that ensured "fair trade" between the nations, but was unable to get that included in the official communique, according to Bloomberg. There was some willingness at the meeting to cut Mnuchin some slack and hope the stance of the Trump's still very new team will evolve between now and the July summit of G20 leaders in Hamburg. French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the US was at odds with 19 other nations.
The agreement isn't binding; members can only pressure others to abide by it.
Trump already has pulled the USA out of a proposed free-trade deal with Japan and other Pacific Rim countries. "But it is not very clear what (protectionism) means to each (minister)". U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to downplay the wording issue.
Despite the reservations about a variety of Trump's positions, numerous officials said they were impressed with Mnuchin's presentation and command of issues.
Canada is preparing for potential new talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with the USA and Mexico, and has mounted a widespread lobbying campaign aimed at convincing Trump and his administration about the benefits of trade with their northern neighbor.