Singapore: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries issued a declaration on Wednesday against protectionism, saying such policies would be a setback to the global economy.
APEC trade ministers also agreed to intensify efforts to reach a global trade pact by 2010, seen as a way to spur the global economy out its worst downturn in decades.
“If protectionism is not controlled, this could be a severe setback for our growth prospects,” Singapore trade minister Lim Hng Kiang, the chair of the APEC meeting, told a news conference after a two-day meeting.
Trade officials at the meeting offered cautious optimism over their export outlooks, with China, leading hopes for a tentative global recovery, saying the decline in its exports could ease in the second half of the year.
“Overall China’s economy is stabilising and improving. As for exports in the second half, we’ll have to look at the global economic situation,” commerce minister Chen Deming told reporters.
World Trade Organisation Director-General Pascal Lamy, also at the meeting, said this month that governments were unfairly blocking trade in response to the global downturn, hurting wealthy economies most and raising concerns about stimulus measures in both rich and poor nations.
“Buy American” provisions in the US stimulus bill generally require public works projects funded by the bill to use only US-made steel, iron and other manufactured goods. Other countries have also issued “buy local” policies.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters the “Buy American” campaign will not violate commitments of the WTO.
The Doha round, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 to help poor countries prosper through trade, has been written off many times as WTO members squabbled over calls to cut tariffs and subsidies to boost commerce in food, goods and services.
Lamy has estimated a Doha deal could boost the world economy by $130 billion.
Negotiators have said there is little chance of a deal until the United States signals its position on outstanding disagreements over agriculture and other issues, but so far the US has given little indication of its stance.
Kirk said a review of US trade policy was 80-90% completed.
World leaders will next look at progress in the Doha talks at a G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September. G8 nations agreed earlier this to push for the Doha deal by 2010.