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G20 financial leaders fail to reaffirm free trade commitment

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 18 (Reuters) - The world's financial leaders failed to reach a compromise deal to endorse free trade on Saturday, backtracking on past commitments to keep trade open and reject protectionism, the communique of G20 finance ministers and central bankers showed.

Making only a token reference for the need to strengthen the contribution of trade to the economy, finance ministers and central bank chiefs of the world's top 20 economies broke with a decade-old tradition of rejecting protectionism and endorsing open trade.

In the new U.S. administration's biggest clash yet with the international community, G20 finance chiefs also walked back on a pledge to support climate change finance, an anticipated outcome after U.S President Donald Trump called climate change a "hoax".

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, delegates said that the U.S. was holding out on key issues, unwilling to compromise and essentially torpedoing a deal as it requires all members to sign up.

Trump has already pulled out of a key trade agreement and proposed a new tax on imports arguing that certain trade relationships need to be reworked to make them fairer for U.S. workers.

G20 financial leaders, however, reaffirmed their a commitment to refrain from competitive currency devaluation, a key agreement as the U.S. has repeatedly complained that some of its trade partners are using artificially devalued currencies to gain a trade advantage.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi)