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WTO Says World Governments Slipping into Protectionism


The World Trade Organization says governments around the world have slipped into protectionist measures since January, threatening to undercut a global economic recovery.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy says developed and developing economies have raised tariffs on imports and introduced other measures to protect domestic industries. He made the comments in a report Thursday to the WTO's 153 members.

Lamy says there is no sign of an imminent global trade war. But the WTO chief says he fears countries will continue giving in to protectionist pressures as economic conditions worsen, leading to a "strangling" of international trade.

The world's 20 major economies are expected to discuss how to avoid protectionism at a summit in London next month.

Britain's prime minister says he will urge the other big economies to help boost world trade by creating a $100 billion fund for easing a shortage in credit. Gordon Brown was speaking Thursday after talks in Brazil with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Also Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world's 20 major economies to provide $1 trillion in aid to developing countries hardest-hit by the global recession.

In a letter to the Group of 20 major economies, Mr. Ban said the most vulnerable developing nations need at least $1 trillion to sustain them through the crisis this year and next year.

Mr. Ban says he realizes this is a large sum, but says he believes major economies can give the money through existing institutions. He says that by helping poor nations, major economies will boost the global economy and underpin their own growth.

In other developments Thursday, a German study says consumer confidence in Europe's largest economy is likely to fall next month for the first time since last October.

The GFK research group said its German consumer confidence index is expected to fall slightly in April, by 0.1 point to a reading of 2.5. The group blamed the decline on consumer pessimism about Germany's recession and fears of job losses.

Elsewhere, Kuwait's Cabinet approved a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus package to guarantee bank loans to local businesses and to help investment companies cope with losses. Kuwait's ruling emir is expected to issue a decree to turn the stimulus bill into law.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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