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WTO: Economic Expansion of 2006 Likely to Slow This Year

World Trade Organization economists say that after strong growth in 2006, the WTO should keep strengthening multilateral trade to stem risks and trade imbalances in 2007.

World Trade Organization economists say in their preliminary assessment of 2006 and 2007 trade that despite the strong growth of last year, this year looks more uncertain.

"The strong performance of 2006 is welcome, particularly the gains made by developing and least-developed countries," says WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy in a Thursday WTO release. "But this has to be consolidated. The uncertainties that lie ahead are a warning for us not to lose sight of the need to continue to reform the world economy."

The forecasters warn of the prospect of slowing expansion due to risks associated with the financial and property markets and trade imbalances in goods and services. The economists see the 8% merchandise trade growth of 2006 dipping to around 6% in 2007, due to 3% global economic growth in the coming year.

In 2006, higher commodity and petroleum prices helped least-developed countries' trade to grow by around 30%.

Lamy sees the Doha Round as a way to stabilize the global economy. "The best contribution the WTO can make is to keep strengthening the multilateral trading system," he says. "A successful conclusion to the Doha Round holds great potential for boosting growth and alleviating poverty. An agreement would also deliver more relevant trade rules, helping to establish a more stable and certain foundation for today's dynamic global marketplace."

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