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For the first time since the World Trade Organization started monitoring the protectionist reaction to the financial crisis in 2008, its Director General, Pascal Lamy, has voiced "serious concern" to national negotiators over a marked increase in the introduction of restrictive trade measures in recent months.
Lamy told delegates: "The implementation of new measures restricting or potentially restricting trade has remained unabated over the past seven months, which is aggravated by the slow pace of rollback of existing measures."
Citing the findings of a recent report on the matter, Lamy said: "The accumulation of these trade restrictions is now a matter of serious concern. Trade coverage of the restrictive measures put in place since October 2008, excluding those that were terminated, is estimated to be almost 3% of world merchandise trade, and almost 4% of G-20 trade. The discrepancy between the commitments taken and the actions on the ground add to credibility concerns."
Turning to discuss progress towards the Doha Round - a global trade agreement that aims to significant liberalize world trade, Lamy added: "Negotiations are continuing constructively at the technical level in line with the work programme agreed in the Negotiating Group in January. This week we have the latest cluster of facilitator-led negotiations, and a number of capital-based officials are in town to consult informally on areas of the text where they feel progress can be made."
With Doha Round talks deadlocked, nations agreed to revisit negotiations in a way seen as most likely to produce progress - through informal bilateral negotiations on areas deemed least problematic. On the Round, Lamy reported that, "progress is being made" although he conceded that "it may not be as fast as some would like, given the technical nature of the work, and the importance all members attach to the inclusive method of negotiations [for Least Developed Countries], there are no short cuts to be had."
"It is important that we collectively and urgently redouble our efforts to strengthen multilateral co-operation to find global solutions to the current economic difficulties and risks and avoid situations that would cause further trade and investment tensions. This will be part of the message that I will sharing with leaders at the upcoming G-20 Summit on 18 June," he added.
"I hope that all Members can all live up to the commitment made by Ministers at MC8 (The eighth WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva, December 2011) and elsewhere to keep markets open and resist protectionism in all forms," Lamy concluded.
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