THE World Trade Organization (WTO) is pushing anew for free trade as it sounded the alarm over the rise in economic restrictions imposed by the Group of Twenty (G-20) despite the recent adoption of the Bali package of trade facilitation measures.

G-20 is the forum for international economic cooperation and decision-making, with members from 19 countries plus the European Union.

Its members account for 85 percent of the world economy, 76 percent of global trade, and two-thirds of the world's population.

Members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union.

The latest WTO report on G-20 trade measures published last month noted that from mid-May to mid-November 2013, most G-20 members put in place new trade restrictions or measures with the potential to limit trade flows.

"A total of 116 new trade restrictive measures were identified since the last WTO report, up from 109 measures recorded for the previous seven-month period [mid-October 2012 to mid-May 2013]," the report said.

These initiatives were mainly new trade remedy actions, including anti-dumping investigations, tariff increases, and more stringent customs procedures.

Additionally, fewer liberalizing or facilitating actions, such as tariff reductions and termination of trade remedy actions, were shown to have been taken from mid-May to mid-November 2013 than in the past.

"Around 33 percent of the total recorded measures can be considered as trade facilitating, compared with 40 percent at the time of the previous trade monitoring report," said the WTO.

The report reiterated the importance of removing trade barriers, noting the link between the rise in protectionist actions and the slowdown in world economic activity.

The current global economic stagnation, it said, has not only affected most developed economies but also major emerging markets. Trade growth in 2013 is expected to register at 2.5 percent, only a slight increase over 2012.

World trade in 2014 is seen to expand by 4.5 percent which, although higher than in 2013, "is still below the historical trend," said the trade body.

"Strong leadership by the G-20 economies is crucial for the world, in particular to move forward on the positive momentum generated by the adoption of the Bali package," it said.

"The multilateral trading system remains the best defense against protectionism and the strongest force for economic growth, sustainable recovery and development." (PR)