June 8, 2009 / 1:30 PM / in 11 years

Anti-protectionism trade site launched

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain launched a website on Monday that will give live updates on global protectionism to foster free trade and help the world economy recover from the worst recession since the 1930s.

British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said the Global Trade Alert site would act as a watchdog to deter governments from protectionist measures that he warned would only make the recession “longer and more painful.”

“Everyone is watching everyone else and there is a lot to be said for peer pressure,” he said. “(The) trading system faces a huge crisis of demand and of credit, but the real long-term risk to its health lies in protectionism.”

The website, run by a London-based economic thinktank, will gather evidence of new tariffs, as well as non-tariff barriers and emergency steps taken in response to the downturn, he added.

Leaders of the G20 major economies pledged at a summit in November to fight protectionism but 18 of their economies were named in a World Trade Organisation report in March on measures taken that could be seen as restricting trade.

‘RESTART DOHA’

In a speech to a trade conference in London, Mandelson reiterated calls for ministers to revive the Doha round of talks, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 to help poor countries prosper through trade.

The election of new U.S. and Indian governments offers hope of a breakthrough in the stalled talks that could pump 120 billion euros (104.6 billion pounds) into the world economy, he added.

“It would be a concrete insurance policy against future protectionism,” Mandelson said. “We need therefore to restart ministerial negotiations at the earliest opportunity.

“I would hope that that stronger Indian position would and could be matched by a comparably stronger position and approach taken up by the United States,” said Mandelson, who served as EU trade commissioner until his appointment to the British government in October.

The two countries held trade talks at an agricultural exporters’ meeting in Indonesia on Monday. Their argument over agriculture subsidies scuttled a trade agreement last year.

The website, www.globaltradealert.org, will be co-funded by the British government and run by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, a London-based thinktank. About 700 researchers working mainly in European universities will gather evidence.

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