WASHINGTON (Reuters) - World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Thursday nearly half of the Group of 20 nations are considering or have taken measures to restrict trade in the face of an economic downturn.
“Since the G20 meeting less than 3 weeks ago, nine G20 countries have taken or are considering 23 measures that restrict trade at the expense of other countries,” Zoellick told a news conference before World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington this weekend.
“That’s almost half of the G20 member states,” Zoellick added.
A World Bank report identified the countries as the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Italy.
The G20, which includes major industrialized and emerging market nations, has asked the World Bank and World Trade Organization to monitor and “name and shame” countries which are increasing trade barriers.
Zoellick, a former U.S. trade chief, also said four G20 countries have lifted trade restrictions but “some have lifted restrictions with one hand and imposed them with the other”.
The World Bank chief said the danger of protectionism is increasing as political pressure increases on countries to close their markets.
“While you’ve had a series of actions that the WTO and we have tried to highlight, I don’t think you’ve had a major pullback in the global economy on trade so far,” Zoellick said. “I’m going to do everything I can to try to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
He said while there is a lot of uncertainty around the global financial crisis “you definitely want to do everything you can to avoid negative shocks” including a retreat to protectionism, which could worsen the situation.
G20 leaders, meeting in Washington in November amid the growing global financial crisis, promised not to impose any new trade restricting measures for 12 months. That promise was repeated at a second G20 leaders summit in London on April 2.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Neil Stempleman; editing by Carol Bishopric