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IMF, World Bank, WTO Heads Issue Protectionism Warning

By Agence France-Presse The heads of the (International Monetary Fund) IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a warning May 16 that any increase in trade protectionism would threaten global growth and market-oriented economic reform. The joint letter was addressed to ministers from the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at the end of their annual two-day meeting here. "Any increase in protectionism by one country is damaging," said the text, signed by IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler, World Bank President James Wolfensohn and WTO Director General Mike Moore. "Such actions will hurt growth prospects where fostering growth is most essential. And they are sending the wrong signal, threatening to undermine the ability of governments everywhere to build support for market-oriented reforms." The letter made no mention of any country in particular, but its release comes amid mounting criticism around the world of the United States, where Congress recently approved a sharp increase in government aid to agriculture and where President George W. Bush imposed tariffs of up to 30% on a range of steel imports. Critics, who include key members of the OECD, contend that the U.S. moves undermine Washington's commitments to the goals of a new round of WTO talks aimed at eliminating trade barriers. U.S. officials at the OECD meeting here sought to assure Washington's partners that the Bush administration backs free trade and opposes protectionism. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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