Speaking in the German parliament as deputies approved a new €50-billion ($64-billion) stimulus plan, Steinbrueck said: “We see increasingly on the world stage that protectionist tendencies are no longer ruled out.”
“I believe that Germany in particular has a massive interest in making sure in forthcoming international meetings that the world does not make the same mistake that it made in the 1930s,” the minister added.
As a response to the Great Depression of the 1930s, countries began to raise trade barriers in a bid to safeguard jobs domestically, prompting tit-for-tat measures from trade partners that deepened the global crisis. Steinbrück’s comments came as finance ministers from the Group of Seven richest countries descended on Rome to discuss the financial storm that has seen all of their economies plunged into deep recessions.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, making the first trip abroad since his appointment, is set to urge his fellow ministers to take “bold measures” to confront the crisis, officials said earlier in the week. As the ministers gathered in Rome, more disastrous economic data emerged from Germany, host Italy and the eurozone earlier Friday.
Italy’s output in the fourth quarter of 2008 fell to the lowest level since 1980. Over the same three-month period, eurozone growth slumped 1.5 percent and German GDP fell by 2.1 percent, acccording to new data.
The G7 includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.