Global trade contracted by about 12 percent in 2009 but has started to pick up, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Feb. 24. Director General Pascal Lamy said the WTO had revised its previous estimate of a contraction of about 10 percent in 2009 but gave no forecast for 2010. “World trade has also been a casualty of this (global economic) crisis, contracting … by about 12 percent in 2009,” Lamy said, as cited by Reuters, during a visit to Brussels, calling it a huge drop and the sharpest decline since the end of World War Two. Asked about world trade in 2010, he declined to give any figure but said: “Certainly there is a pick-up. Whether this pick-up is short term … or whether this is sustainable … is difficult to say but we certainly are picking up.” Lamy told a meeting organized by the European Policy Center think-tank that opening global trade offered a way out of the crisis and that it was “economically imperative” to conclude the Doha round of talks on a new global commerce pact.
Latin American and Caribbean nations have agreed to set up a new regional body without the US and Canada. The new bloc would be an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS), the main forum for regional affairs in the past 50 years. The announcement, at the end of a two-day summit in the Mexican resort of Cancun, reflects an increasing determination among Latin American leaders to assert their vision in a region in which the US has traditionally wielded considerable influence. Leaders are expected to decide the grouping’s organizational structure and official name at a summit next year in the Venezuelan capital. The bloc’s formation is expected to take years and faces many challenges. Latin America remains divided on whether to recognize the government of Honduran President Porfiri.