Finance chiefs of the Group of 20 major economies meeting in the Japanese city of Fukuoka are debating how to revise tax systems to ensure big companies pay their fair share and support economies as global growth slows.
After rocky negotiations that almost aborted the issuance of a communique, the finance ministers and central bank governors gathered in Fukuoka, southern Japan, affirmed language on trade issued in Buenos Aires last December.
Trade Secretary Steven Mnuchin says China is ready to come back to the table and resume negotiations.
But it was unclear if their meeting might lead to a restart of those talks after weeks of stalemate.
By a quirk of the calendar, G20 trade ministers are also meeting the same weekend in Japan but the finance ministers will be tackling the current tensions and their economic consequences, officials and analysts said.
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde singled out trade tensions as the "major" headwind facing the global economy, adding that it was a "significant risk on the horizon", in an interview with Japan's Nikkei daily on Sunday.
The Trump administration began slapping tariffs on imports of Chinese goods almost a year ago, accusing Beijing of using predatory means to lend Chinese companies an edge in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and electric vehicles.
A Japanese official who declined to be named briefed reporters that "very many countries voiced concerns that escalation of the trade friction is a very significant downside risk to the world economy".
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"If we go down this route, we risk clogging the G20", the first official said.
"With so many countries expressing concern over the fallout (from the trade tensions), there seems to be some momentum to reflect that in the communique".
The bickering over trade language has dashed hopes of Japan, which chairs this year's G20 meetings, to keep trade issues low on the list of agendas at the finance leaders' meeting.
"If we can't have that, the end result will be that my expectation is that many companies will move their production out of China to other locations", due to tariffs, Mr Mnuchin said.
"There will be winners and losers", he predicted.
Trade talks were derailed after the United States accused Chinese negotiators of backtracking on an agreement, and both sides slapped another round of punitive tariffs on the other.
"As the president has said, if we can get the right agreement, that's great".
But there are rival proposals in the mix, including a wider US -led approach that could affect European and Asian multinationals in other sectors than technology.