Global economic leaders on Friday continued downplaying possible friction with the Trump administration over currencies, trade and other potentially contentious issues, even while acknowledging that much about the U.S. president’s plans remains unclear. On a day when Donald Trump himself seemed focused on domestic matters – promising a new U.S. tax plan next week and announcing reviews of financial regulations – world officials gathered just blocks from the White House said there was “broad consensus” with the new president’s advisers over the need to keep economic borders open and coordinate on global financial regulation.”Almost everybody underscored the importance of open markets and free market access,” German central bank governor Jens Weidmann said following meetings among finance ministers from the world’s top 20 economic powers, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “That was the consensus.”His remarks come as finance and economic officials attending meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank took heart in an improving world economy, but also spoke of the sudden raft of political issues that could put that progress at risk. Trump’s tough talk on trade and seeming suspicion of “globalist” groups like the IMF cast a shadow over the start of this week’s session. Similarly, the French elections on Sunday have been frequently cited as the sort of event that could reverse the euro zone’s tentative economic progress. A WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH WASHINGTON
The Trump risk, at least for now, seems to have diminished. Germany currently chairs the Group of 20, an organization that under the administration of President Barack Obama had become a central forum for working out economic issues among the world’s largest economies. Officials here this week have said Mnuchin and other administration officials seemed ready to continue work on issues like financial regulation, while avoiding overt clashes on issues like the value of China’s currency or Germany’s large trade surplus with the United States.
The Trump administration had previously threatened to impose measures to restrict imports, and verbally attacked Germany for running a large surplus by exploiting a weak euro. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said earlier on Friday neither topic was discussed in Washington and that he had seen a relaxation in the dispute with the United States over trade. Steel, of which Germany is a large producer, has become a point of contention.
Speaking at a separate G20 event in Germany, the country’s economy minister, Brigitte Zypries, said a Trump-announced U.S. probe into whether imports of foreign-made steel were hurting national security pointed toward “unwelcome protectionist tendencies.” She said she would discuss the global steel market with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross by telephone next week. But Schaeuble overall said he believed a “non-confrontational solution” to economic issues would be reached when financial leaders of the world’s 20 top economies meet again in Hamburg in July. British Chancellor Philip Hammond said he thought the U.S. and U. K. could go further, and strike a bilateral trade deal, while Japanese and other officials said they did not expect any sharp or disruptive moves from Trump. Officials also said Trump’s intention to roll back some of the financial rules put into place since the 2008 financial crisis won’t damage the world financial system. Trump’s talk of deregulation has unnerved European regulators, but Weidmann said he was confident there would be no “regulatory race to the bottom.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared poised to clamp down on where corporations can be sued, a potential setback for plaintiffs’ lawyers who strive to bring cases in courts and locales they consider friendly. The nine justices in two separate cases heard appeals of lower court rulings allowing out-of-state injury lawsuits against drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co(BMY. N) and BNSF Railway CoBNISF. UL. Companies and plaintiffs are engaged in a fight over where lawsuits seeking financial compensation for injuries should be filed. Companies typically can be sued in a state where they are headquartered or incorporated, as well as where they have significant ties. They want to curtail plaintiffs’ ability to “shop” for courts in states with laws conducive to such lawsuits. Bristol-Myers was appealing a California Supreme Court ruling allowing that state’s courts to hear claims related to its blood-thinning medication Plavix even though most plaintiffs do not live in the state and the company is not based there. Based on questions asked during the argument, the court’s conservative majority appeared to side with the companies’ view while its liberals wondered how it would be unfair to add out-of-state claims to a case that would proceed anyway. Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed skepticism over California handling matters for residents of all other states.”That’s a very patronizing view of federalism,” Kennedy told the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Thomas Goldstein. “California will tell Ohio, ‘Oh, don’t worry, Ohio, we’ll take care of you.'”
If suits involving out-of-state residents can be handled in every state, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts added, “I don’t see that it increases the efficiency at all.”‘ALL OF THE ABOVE’ Liberal Justice Elena Kagan suggested Bristol-Myers did not want to face multiple trials in California specifically because of plaintiff-friendly juries or the possibility of punitive damages.
“All of the above,” the company’s lawyer Neal Katyal said, adding that it is harder to get cases thrown out of court before trial in California. The underlying lawsuits filed in 2012 against Bristol-Myers and California-based drug distributor McKesson Corp involved 86 California residents and 575 non-Californians, alleging Plavix increased their risk of stroke, heart attack and internal bleeding. The California Supreme Court ruled in August 2016 that it could preside over the Plavix case because Bristol-Myers Squibb conducted a national marketing campaign and sold nearly $1 billion of the drug in the state. Bristol-Myers is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York. The justices also appeared to be leaning toward Texas-based railroad BNSF. The company is appealing a 2015 Montana Supreme Court ruling allowing out-of-state residents to sue there over injuries occurring anywhere in BNSF’s nationwide network.
The case focused on a federal law concerning railroads, but Roberts seemed skeptical that a ruling siding with the plaintiffs would be limited to that context. Roberts wondered whether other companies operating in multiple states including airlines and trucking companies could similarly be sued in states where they operate but are not based.”How do you decide what other companies and industries are at home in Montana?” Roberts asked the plaintiffs’ lawyer. Rulings in both cases are due by the end of June. In an unusual twist, Justice Stephen Breyer’s cellphone rang shortly after the Bristol-Myers argument began, which he scrambled to turn off. Members of the public are forbidden from bringing electronic devices into the court’s chamber. A court spokeswoman called Breyer’s cellphone ringing an “oversight.”