WTO warns of Asian protectionism threat

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 31 2012 03:42 PM | Updated as of May 31 2012 11:42 PM

BANGKOK - The head of the World Trade Organisation on Thursday warned against growing Asian protectionism and said the region would not escape the impact of economic woes across the globe.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy acknowledged the region's relative resilience so far to economic turbulence in the eurozone and and continued uncertainty in the US economic outlook.

But he told the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok that it was increasingly "interconnected with the rest of the planet and I don't think this relative immunity will be forever".

"I would expect, given what is happening in other part of the world economy, this region to be more affected than it has been so far," he added.

Lamy said the "biggest risk" was protectionism, because of Asia's position as a major exporter to the rest of the world.

"The main risk is protectionism, and you know that it remains a serious risk, a growing risk," he said, adding that protectionist pressure had increased over the last six months.

"But more worryingly protectionists action have intensified, more and more governments are ceding to this pressure," he said, urging the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to step up integration to insure against external shocks.

The Bangkok summit, which began Thursday and was attended by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her first trip outside her homeland in 24 years, is aimed at providing a forum for nations and business leaders to discuss issues of regional concern.

A report by the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) in early May said the region's growth will edge down to 6.5 percent in 2012 from 7.0 percent last year caused by troubled export markets and rising commodity prices.

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