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Greenspan voices support for free trade

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Anti-globalization protesters cannot be allowed to roll back the important gains to the world economy growing out of increasing economic links among nations, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Tuesday.

Greenspan said spreading protests that began at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle last December reflect demonstrators' ``fear that they would lose local political control of their destinies.''

Greenspan's concerns about threats to the global trading system were contained in a speech prepared for delivery at a monetary conference sponsored by Mexico's central bank in Mexico City. They echoed a number of his past comments in support of free trade.

``The progress in lowering trade barriers since World War II marks the triumph of putting an important idea into practice _ that international trade benefits all nations,'' Greenspan said. ``Indeed, in every nation, those benefits are shared by people spread across quite different income brackets.''

Greenspan cautioned against complacency in dealing with the issues raised by the protesters, who after Seattle clogged streets in Washington in April and hurled cobblestones at police lines during the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund in Prague in September.

Greenspan said that any weakening from the strong economic growth of recent years ``runs the risk of reviving mistrust of market-oriented systems, even among conventional policy-makers. ... Clearly, the risk is that support for restrictions on trade is not dead, only quiescent.''

Greenspan said the progress made since World War II in lowering trade barriers between nations really represented an effort by countries to get back to the open borders that had existed at the beginning of the 20th century.

He said it had taken a half-century to roll back those barriers that were erected after World War I as country after country responded to economic downturns by erecting protectionist barriers that made economic conditions worse.


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