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9.5 percent trade growth forecast by WTO

April 1 - World trade is set to grow in 2010 by 9.5 percent, according to WTO economists, after the sharpest decline in more than 70 years.

"We see the light at the end of the tunnel and trade promises to be an important part of the recovery. But we must avoid derailing any economic revival through protectionism," said director-general Pascal Lamy.

As the world emerges from a global recession, it is expected that exports from developed economies will increase by 7.5 percent in volume terms over the course of the year while shipments from the rest of the world (including developing economies and the Commonwealth of Independent States) should rise by around 11 percent.

This strong expansion will help recover some, but by no means all of the ground lost in 2009 when the global economic crisis sparked a 12.2 percent contraction in the volume of global trade - the largest such decline since World War II. Should trade continue to expand at its current pace, the economists predict, it would take another year for trade volumes to surpass the peak level of 2008. Measuring trade in volume terms provides a more reliable basis for annual comparisons since volume measurements are not distorted by changes in commodity prices or currency fluctuations, as they can be when trade is measured in dollars or other currencies.

One positive development in 2009 was the absence of any major increase in trade barriers imposed by WTO members in response to the crisis, said Lamy. "The number of trade-restricting measures applied by governments has actually declined in recent months. However, significant slack remains in the global economy, and unemployment is likely to remain high throughout 2010 in many countries. Persistent unemployment may intensify protectionist pressures.

"During these difficult times, the multilateral trading system has once again proven its value. WTO rules and principles have assisted governments in keeping markets open and they now provide a platform from which trade can grow as the global economy improves," he said.

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