EU finance ministers gather in Brussels amid concerns over the future of free trade following recent G20 meeting. David Pollard reports.
He was happy to sign the visitors' book. If little else. The US Treasury Secretary - and peers - breaking with a traditional show of joint support for trade at their G20 summit. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY, STEVEN MNUCHIN, SAYING: "We do have a new administration and we do have a different view on trade." That was Saturday in Baden-Baden. The shock is still felt days later as Ecofin ministers meet in Brussels. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MALTESE FINANCE MINISTER, EDWARD SCICLUNA: "It was a bit surreal for member states, because you know, the G20 was there to express one's values." (SOUNDBITE) (English) LUXEMBOURG FINANCE MINISTER, PIERRE GRAMEGNA, SAYING: "We're all worried in Europe that open trade and globalisation with its good sides are being put into question." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DANISH FINANCE MINISTER, KRISTIAN JENSEN, SAYING: "The promise we have given each other in the past has now been taken away by the new U.S. administration. And I'm quite concerned that we need to fight harder for Europe to keep up free trade." Shinzo Abe's visit to Brussels, then, even more critical. Japan seen as possible collateral damage in any US-Chinese trade breakup. The Japanese prime minister's bid for his own bilateral agreement with the EU now, perhaps, in line for priority treatment. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILSON KING INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, HEAD OF RESEARCH, RICHARD HUNTER, SAYING: "I suspect there might be a sense of urgency in these talks to get a deal brokered which maybe hasn't been there in the past couple of years." But Donald Tusk also spoke about a future deal even closer to home - with a Britain about to push the Brexit trigger. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EU COUNCIL PRESIDENT, DONALD TUSK, SAYING: "We must do everything we can to make the process of divorce the least painful for the EU." Along with US protectionism, another threat to EU trade still lurking within the EU itself.