WTO warns of growing protectionism

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The World Trade Organization warned Wednesday that protectionism may be gaining ground in parts of the world amid current economic difficulties and urged world leaders to curb the trend.

"There is a growing perception that trade protectionism is gaining ground in some parts of the world as a political reaction to current local economic difficulties," the WTO said.

There are "signs of a revival in the use of industrial policies to promote national champions and of import substitution measures to back up that policy," it noted.

In addition, more new export restrictions -- targetted mainly at minerals and food products -- were imposed during May to mid-October than in the past, it added.

"Although the majority of these actions were justified on the grounds of national responses to rising food prices, to secure domestic supply, or to address resource depletion, they nevertheless go against the G20 standstill pledge in this respect, and have the potential to seriously affect trading partners," it added.

The WTO also raised the risk that governments may be "tempted to use export restrictions" to obtain an advantage in export pricing or to expand production of their domestic industries.

"The situation is not yet alarming, but it is clearly adding to the downside risks to the global economy," it said.

It called on G20 leaders meeting in Cannes in November to "prevent any further deterioration in their collective trade policy stance" by keeping trade open.

© 2011 AFP

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