WTO: world trade growth on course for recovery in 2000

(AP) -- Growth in world trade should recover next year after its sharp drop in 1998, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation said in Geneva Wednesday.

This content was published on November 3, 1999 - 17:29

(AP) -- Growth in world trade should recover next year after its sharp drop in 1998, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation said in Geneva Wednesday.

Mike Moore said trade in goods rose by 4 percent worldwide in 1998, compared with 10 percent the previous year. All regions were affected by the slowdown, and imports by Japan and East Asia fell for the first time since 1974, he said.

"Early indicators suggest that there will be a recovery both in world output and trade in the year 2000. The International Monetary Fund is predicting an acceleration of output growth ... in the year 2000 largely due to higher growth in the developing countries," Moore said in his report.

"World trade is expected to expand by 6 to 7 percent, which would be close to the average growth rate observed in the 1990s."

Although trade continued to grow slowly, Japan's overall trade figures fell in 1998, the report said.

Asian imports rose in the first half of 1999, but the value of trade in goods worldwide remained at the same level as 1998, said Moore.

Moore said countries affected by the Asian economic crisis in 1997 had resisted the pressure to use protectionist policies to favour domestic producers, and this had helped the region out of the crisis.

"The system, and the good sense of governments, helped keep markets open, facilitating adjustment and providing a critical element for recovery from the crisis," said Moore. "Seldom have the gains for trade been so evident."

The 135 member nations of the WTO will meet in Seattle at the end of this month to launch a new round of trade liberalisation negotiations. But the body faces increasing criticism from groups who claim it is damaging the environment and doing little or nothing to help developing countries.

Moore said it was important to take note of the criticisms but that there was no retreat from an increasingly global economy.

"This is a good time for starting our work. The state of the world trading environment is generally sound; economic growth is strengthening and the outlook for the next few years is promising," he said.

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