IMF, WTO, OECD vow to defend free trade against protectionism

Free trade warning – IMF, WTO and World Bank say it must be defended

"Together with a risk of protectionism in advanced economies and tighter financial conditions as USA monetary policy normalizes, these changes make for a more challenging environment for emerging market and developing economies going forward", the World Economic Outlook report said.

"But adjustment to trade can bring a human and economic downside that is frequently concentrated, sometimes harsh, and has too often become prolonged".

However, the International Monetary Fund said these economies could still manage through the weaker growth by strengthening their institutional frameworks, protecting trade integration, permitting exchange rate flexibility and containing vulnerabilities from high current account deficits and large public debts.

Last year, world trade grew just 1.9 percent, the slowest since the recession year 2009.

The IMF said despite emerging market and developing economies' increasing overall importance in the global economy, particularly in the 2000s, income levels of individual countries within the group are still relatively low vis-à-vis those of advanced economies.

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"To be sure, job losses in certain sectors or regions in advanced economies have resulted to a large extent from technological changes rather than from trade", the report said. "Approaches beyond labour market policies - such as education, housing, and regional policy - are also needed". "Strong, well-enforced trade rules help to promote competition and to reassure citizens that global trade is evenhanded".

The institutions recommended more active government policies beyond traditional unemployment income benefits to retrain and redeploy workers left idle by imports, including programmes to encourage more worker mobility.

"The good news is that after six years of disappointing growth, the world economy is gaining momentum as a cyclical recovery holds out the promise of more jobs, higher incomes and greater prosperity going forward", Lagarde said the speech to be delivered at Bruegel, an economic research institute in Brussels.

The IMF report identifies technology as "the largest contributor to the change in labour shares in the large majority of countries".

"As the global economy continues to struggle with subpar growth, an increasing recognition that the gains from growth often have not been broadly shared has strengthened a backlash against economic integration and bolstered support for inward-looking policies", the International Monetary Fund said, adding that rising inequality created social tension and led to slower growth.

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