Protectionist policies continue despite recovery-website

By Reuters Staff
February 18, 2010

GENEVA, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Governments around the world continued to impose protectionist measures in the last quarter of 2009 despite economic stabilisation, according to a report from the Global Trade Alert website issued on Thursday.

The rate of protectionism at the end of last year was in line with quarterly rates earlier in 2009, said the independent trade watchdog.

Despite their pledges to do otherwise, it seems that the G20 rich and emerging powers were responsible for an even bigger share of protectionist moves than previously thought, it said.

“Any benefits of stabilisation and recovery have yet to kick in as far as protectionism is concerned,”, said economist Simon Evenett, one of the coordinators of the project, in a statement.

The website, www.globaltradealert.org, was set up last year to monitor and analyse trade measures such as challenges to cheap imports, after the G20 and other nations promised not to respond to the economic crisis by curtailing commerce.

The G20 promises were made with an eye to the 1930s Great Depression, exacerbated by tit-for-tat protectionism as governments tried to protect jobs at home by keeping out imports.

Global Trade Alert said because of delays in nailing down protectionist measures that governments were unwilling to publicise, it now seemed that governments were introducing 100 discriminatory trade measures per quarter against their previous estimate ahead of September’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh of 70.

“The upshot for policymakers was that 2009 was much worse in terms of protectionism than previously thought. Another implication is that there is much more protectionism to unwind in 2010 and as the recovery unfolds,” it said.

Global Trade Alert’s findings are consistently more pessimistic than those of the World Trade Organisation, which has concluded that the crisis has not led to a breakdown in the international trading system and warned that scaremongering about protectionism is counter-productive.

In a separate report on Thursday the World Bank said the fourth quarter of 2009 saw a substantial fall of 23.8 percent in industry demands for WTO-legal import barriers such as anti-dumping duties, the first time this had declined since the crisis broke in mid-2008.

But trade barriers imposed as a result of such investigations were 35.7 percent higher than a year earlier in the fourth quarter, it said.

Global Trade Alert said the European Union and Russia had been the most active users of discriminatory measures since the crisis started, with 123 and 43 respectively, affecting 149 and 137 trading partners. (World Bank report at http://link.reuters.com/zar99h )

(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Robert Evans)

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