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US Treasury chief to brief key allies on Trump policies

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin arrives for the opening session of the G7 of Finance ministers in Bari, southern Italy, Friday, May 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

BARI, Italy (AP) — Top finance officials from seven advanced economies have gathered to hear more about U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic policies on taxation and trade as well as to look for ways to promote growth, combat terrorist financing and stop tax avoidance by major corporations.

The meeting of the Group of 7 finance ministers in the southern Italian seaside town of Bari kicked off Friday with a discussion with economists on how to make growth benefit more people.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was due to explain Trump’s plans to cut business taxes and regulation, as well as the president’s push for what he considers more balanced trading relationships. He was to meet separately Friday with Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, and then with Japan’s deputy prime minister and finance minister Taro Aso.

The group is gathering with the global economy showing steady growth. There are concerns that the economy has not reached the levels seen before the global financial crisis, and that labor productivity continues to lag. Increasing output per worker is key to generating growth, and economists say it may be held back by businesses’ reluctance to invest in plants and equipment due to lingering fear from the Great Recession, as well as uncertainty about new regulations.

In theory, corporate tax cuts and deregulation along the lines proposed by Trump could address some of those problems in the world’s largest economy. But the details, and to what extent those policies will be implemented, remain unclear.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly charged that past administrations had failed to take a tough stand on enforcing trade agreements and this failure had cost millions of good-paying factory jobs and resulted in an enormous U.S. trade deficit. Since taking office, his administration has issued a report that names two G-7 countries, Germany and Japan, for special monitoring because of their large trade surpluses with the U.S. and has sparked a trade battle with Canada, another G-7 country, by imposing higher tariffs on imports of Canadian softwood lumber.

Mnuchin said a trade deal announced Friday with China showed the success of the Trump administration’s trade approach.

“We are excited about U.S. trade policies and I think you probably saw last night we made an announcement on a hundred day economic plan with the Chinese,” he said as he headed into the meeting in the town’s 13th-Century fortress. “We are very happy on how we are proceeding on trade.”

The deal would allow U.S. companies to ship liquefied natural gas to China and tackles a range of long-standing barriers, ending a ban on imports of U.S. beef and moving a step closer to allowing Chinese poultry on American supermarket shelves. It covers a range of long-standing barriers from agriculture to energy to the operation of American financial firms in China.

The Italian hosts say the meeting themes will include making economic growth benefit more people; coordination among international financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; and efforts to stop companies from dodging taxes by moving income across borders.

The meeting prepares the way for a summit at the level of presidents and prime ministers in Taormina, Sicily, on May 26-27.

The G-7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United States and U.K., with representatives of the European Union also attending.

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Martin Crutsinger in Washington contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that the summit in Taormina will be held May 26-27, not May 25-26.

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