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Britain's Brown warns against protectionism

DAVOS (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned on Friday against a retreat into protectionist policies in response to the global financial crisis.

In a joint news conference with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum, Brown flagged the risk of “financial mercantilism,” where foreign banks retreat to their home countries during the crisis.

“This, if we do nothing, will lead to a new form of protectionism, a retreat of globalization and a reduction of trade and cross-border activity which will be followed quickly by the old trade protectionism of the past,” Brown said.

“This is a time not just for individual, national measures to deal with the global financial crisis. This is the time ... for the world to come together as one.”

His remarks set the tone for political leaders from rich and developing countries attending the World Economic Forum to lay some groundwork for a deal on rebuilding the global financial system at the Group of 20 summit April.

Brown said there were three key areas to tackle -- the stabilization of the banks, sustaining cross-border trade and the resumption of lending to households and businesses.

“Not to make a decision, the policy of doing nothing, will allow this crisis to start a retreat from globalization with huge implications for prosperity in every part of the world in the years to come,” Brown said.

The Group of 20 summit in April in London will focus on efforts to counter the financial crisis but would also discuss climate change and global poverty.

“We will not solve the problem of climate change without development in Africa ... We have got to act on climate change and we have got to act on poverty at the same time,” he said.

Editing by Mike Peacock