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Protectionism averted despite Asian crisis: WTO.

GENEVA, Dec. 3 Kyodo

Protectionist pressures were averted in global trade in 1998, despite a slowdown in trade volume growth largely owing to the Asian economic crisis and the Japanese recession, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said Thursday in its annual trade report. The growth rate for real merchandise exports for 1998 is expected to slow to somewhere between 4 and 5% from the record high level of 10% in 1997, the Geneva-based institution said. The multilateral trading system has an important role to play in helping address the current difficulties facing the world economy, it said. ''The WTO provides a valuable bulwark against protectionist pressures emerging from significant changes in trade flows as a result of the crisis,'' the report said. As an example, the report cited the ''successful completion'' in December 1997 of negotiations on further liberalization of trade in financial services. ''Seventy WTO members representing 95% of the global financial services market, including some of the East Asian economies most affected by the financial crisis, agreed to open their financial services sectors,'' it said. On trade policy, the statement said the drive toward market opening has continued worldwide, including in those countries most directly affected by the crisis. But it noted ''some increases in trade-defense measures'' in some countries, aimed at forestalling increases in imports seen as unfair. It said the developments in this area ''will require careful monitoring'' as exports from the crisis-hit countries increase. As for the outlook for 1999, the WTO said most forecasters regard ''a moderate acceleration in volume growth compared to 1998 as the most likely scenario.'' ''In value terms, the recovery should be more pronounced as price declines in primary commodities are partly reversed and the dollar is not expected to strengthen,'' it added. The WTO says the actual outcome will depend in large measure on the recovery of Asian economies, ''in particular Japan,'' and the sustainability of growth momentum in Western Europe and North America.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Dec 7, 1998
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