Trade Slump Threatens Global Growth, Warns BHP Billiton Chief – by Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – September 16, 2015)

Andrew Mackenzie hits out at protectionist policies he says pose a risk to the world economy

The head of the world’s largest mining company warned that a slump in international trade will jeopardize global growth just as major economies are struggling to prevent another downturn.

Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive of BHP Billiton, said trade restrictions such as the U.S. crude-oil export ban were hampering global commerce—which is lagging far behind its historical pace of expansion—and would limit job growth and stifle innovation.

He cautioned governments world-wide against introducing new barriers, such as tariffs on steel, to protect domestic industries.

“Protectionism is the grit in the engine,” Mr. Mackenzie said Wednesday during a speech in Washington, according to prepared remarks seen in advance by The Wall Street Journal. “Job creation, economic growth and innovation: all are jeopardized by the pressure placed on global trade over the last decade.”

Economists say a dearth of significant new trade agreements and the erection of extra barriers after the global financial crisis have curtailed exports globally. The World Trade Organization is expected to cut its 2015 trade forecast a second time after a sudden contraction in trade during the first half of the year—the first in six years.

The International Monetary Fund is preparing to downgrade its outlook for global growth this year, already at its weakest since the financial crisis. “Growth is too low, productivity is too low, trade numbers are too low, investment is too low, infrastructure projects are too few, and the only thing that is too high is unemployment,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said earlier this month.

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