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FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble talks to reporters in Baden-Baden, Germany, March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach(reuters_tickers)
By Francesco Canepa and Gernot Heller
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Germany's finance minister is optimistic about reaching a "non-confrontational solution" on trade with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration at a summit this summer, he said on Friday after meeting his U.S. counterpart in Washington.
Trump's administration has threatened to impose measures to restrict imports and verbally attacked Germany for running a large trade surplus with the United States and benefiting from a weak euro.
Yet, confirming early signs of a detente, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said neither topic was discussed in Washington, where world leaders are gathering for the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund.
He added he had seen a relaxation in the dispute with the United States over free trade and believed a "non-confrontational solution" would be reached when financial leaders of the world's 20 top economies meet in Hamburg in July under Germany's presidency.
G20 members are also meeting in Washington this week.
At a G20 meeting last month policymakers dropped a pledge to keep global trade free and open from their communique, acquiescing to U.S. requests.
Yet a few weeks later, the climate seems to be changing slightly and officials gathering in Washington have found an administration that is far from the disruptive force Trump promised during his election campaign.
This was further underscored by the president of Germany's central bank Jens Weidmann, who said there had been no discussion about rolling back financial rules put into place since the 2008 crisis to prevent a new financial meltdown.
"The question of a regulatory race to the bottom... has played and, I believe, will play no role," Weidmann said, speaking alongside Schaeuble.
Schaeuble added the presidential election in France, where a first round takes place this weekend, posed a risk to the global economy.
He wished that a runoff between the far right and the far left leaders - Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon, who have raised the prospect of a French exit from the euro - would be avoided.
"It is no secret that we will not be cheering madly should Sunday's result produce a second round between Le Pen and Melenchon," Schaeuble said.
"Political movements also belong to geo-political risks. I have big confidence in the republican rationality of the French".
Opinion polls have for months forecast that Le Pen would make it through to the run-off, but then lose in the final stage.
Weidmann added the European Central Bank was prepared for any scenario but underscored this was a political, rather than monetary, question.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Andrea Shalal and Andrea Ricci)