The summit of finance ministers from the Group of 20 countries comprising more than 80 percent of the global economy is in progress in the southern German resort town of Baden-Baden.
In his first multilateral meeting as US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin is tasked with relaying the new US President Donald Trump orientation-which is at odds with the G20's sacred notion of free trade.
Trump, whose tough "America First" talk helped win him the presidency, has withdrawn the U.S. from a trans-Pacific free trade pact and attacked export giants China and Germany.
The Washington Post reports that Mnuchin quickly became the center of attention at the gathering, with many foreign leaders seeking to meet with him.
The G20 is a informal forum on economic cooperation between 19 countries plus the European Union. Despite Mr Trump's robust rhetoric against free trade and trading partners, the new United States treasury secretary insisted he was more interested in solutions that avoided confrontation.
Mnuchin said the administration would be looking at relationships where the US was buying more than it could sell to its partner, and would be more aggressive in seeking enforcement of existing rules that would benefit USA workers through the Geneva-based World Trade Organization. Europe was keen on adding that trade should be "rules-based", meaning subject to rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
"We reaffirm our previous exchange rate commitments, including that we will refrain from competitive devaluations and we will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes", the G20 said.More news: Air collision over Montreal mall leaves 1 dead (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
"I'm not that pessimistic", Schaeuble said, adding that the United States had an interest in completing current negotiations of Basel III banking rules. But we've had goodwill and we the experience and know how inside the global organisations to move on even in hard times, " Schauble said. "But it wasn't clear what one or another meant by that".
The meeting's host, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, told reporters that the discussion was about "the right formulation regarding the openness of the world economy".
Mr Trump himself sought to strike a conciliatory tone at a Washington press conference following his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington.
Mr Trump's stance on climate change also sat uneasily with the rest of the room, as sources say the USA delegation is resisting wording in the final communique on the issue.
"I understand what the president's desire is and his policies, and I negotiated them from here", Mnuchin said.
Advocates for free trade such as the International Monetary Fund say that trade restrictions will only hurt growth and won't benefit ordinary people, while urging measures to spread the benefits of trade more widely.