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WTO chief warns of looming political unrest

business Updated: Feb 08, 2009 09:55 IST

The global economic crisis could trigger political unrest equal to that seen during the 1930s, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said in a German newspaper interview on Saturday.

"The crisis today is spreading even faster (than the Great Depression) and affects more countries at the same time," Pascal Lamy told the Die Welt newspaper.

Questioned about the risks of political instability, Lamy -- who wraps up his four-year term as WTO director-general in September -- responded that that was "the main danger".

"This crisis weighs heavily on politics and puts peace in danger," he said.

"Some democracies are old and sufficiently stable to overcome such problems, (but) others are going to be confronted by unrest and inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflicts."

He went on to warn against protectionism, saying it would be "wrongly easy" for nations to throw up trade barriers in response to the economic and financial downturn.

Launched in January 1995, and now with 153 member states, the WTO's mandate is to liberalise international trade.