United States remains at odds with G7 partners over economic protectionist policies

"As for global tax policies and tax reform specifics, the G7 worries, "...a trend towards less redistributive tax and transfer systems in many advanced countries...may have been behind rising inequality".

But unlike a G7 leaders' communiqué of 2016, the Bari meeting did not endorse free trade and reject protectionism, reflecting pressure from the United States where President Donald Trump has signaled his skepticism about free trade deals.

"Excessive inequality, also at the global level, undermines confidence and limits future growth potential", it said, vowing to use all policy tools - monetary, fiscal and structural - individually and collectively to achieve our goal of strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth".

Recalling his discussions with Mnuchin and other G-7 counterparts, Aso said he thinks Mnuchin "has mostly erased concern that (the new USA administration) may transform free trade into protectionism".

The Italian delegation, which is responsible for all of this year's G7 meetings including a summit of global leaders in Sicily in May, had sought to avoid a repeat of the scrap that broke out between the United States delegation and everyone else in the room - bar Japan - at the G20 meeting held between finance ministers and central bank governors in Baden-Baden in March.

Italy's Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan said there was agreement that trade is a "fundamentally positive situation we want to maintain and cultivate going forward". A U.S. Treasury spokesman said Mnuchin will brief his counterparts in Bari on the Trump administration's still-emerging plans to revamp the U.S. tax system - with major cuts for businesses - and ease regulatory burdens.Reflecting tensions over Trump's attitude to protectionism, there will be no formal discussion of trade in Bari, Italian Treasury officials said.

Meanwhile, the Group of 7 (G7) countries - consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - said they were not going to be caught flatfooted again.

Aso told reporters that he has come to see that Trump's trade policy - widely viewed as protectionist - is no different from previous administrations in favor of free trade.

The statement went on to call for enhanced sharing of cyber security information among countries.

On currency, the G-7 finance chiefs underscored their existing commitment to ensure orderly exchange rate movements and to refrain from competitive devaluations.

"Frankly no, we discussed it but we don't know anything", Bank of Italy chief Ignazio Visco said.

A senior Japanese Finance Ministry official said the most significant question pertained to Trump's US tax cut proposal that could fuel America's economic recovery.

But he said the continued uncertainty about the direction of US policy represented a risk, echoing comments made on Friday by Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso.

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