Protectionism 'Damaging International Trade Flows'

By Sean O'Grady | The Independent (London, England), February 2, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Protectionism 'Damaging International Trade Flows'

Sean O'Grady, The Independent (London, England)

World leaders have warned of a new wave of protectionism, hampering international trade and destroying jobs. In the final weekend of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Gordon Brown said: "There is implicit protectionism. I'm afraid of what is happening at the moment."

The Prime Minister is especially concerned about the withdrawal of lending by Western banks to emerging markets. Others echoed that fear and added that traditional methods of protection - tariffs, quotas and discriminatory rules - were also returning.

Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said he could detect "a few spots on our radar screen". "Trade is already a casualty of this recession," he said. "We are witnessing a huge drop in trade flows, which in turn generates unemployment... And, of course, the hit is the hardest on developing countries."

Mr Lamy said the WTO would present a report on protectionist trends to the G20 meeting to be hosted by Mr Brown at Downing Street in April. "We will confront them", he said, with the reality of the situation.

Immediate concerns centre on the "Buy American" clauses in Barack Obama's $819bn (561bn) fiscal stimulus package. These have been inserted by the House of Representatives and require infrastructural spending to use US steel. These provisions will be subject to the agreement of the Senate and the White House, which has said it is "reviewing" them.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, earlier explicitly criticised the separate rescue package for the US carmakers.

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