World leaders set to gather for an economic summit in London next month must give out a clear signal that they reject protectionism, Britain's business minister said ahead of a meeting of international businessmen next week.
"Above all they need to mean it when they say that it's a bad thing that needs to be avoided," Peter Mandelson told The Sunday Telegraph ahead of Wednesday's Group of 20 (G20) business meeting and the April 2 summit of G20 leaders including US President Barack Obama.
"While it might seem the right response to the anxiety that comes with a downturn, it actually puts a structural check in the way of the global economy expanding again, and it is that expansion of demand that will be critical to recovery," Mandelson said.
Mandelson added: "It's right and perfectly possible for governments to act to boost demand and help businesses and families without a return to protectionism or economic nationalism. The G20 have to make that very clear."
The British minister's call follows a row in Europe over French plans to bail out its car industry, which was labelled by the Czech prime minister as "protectionist" and "unacceptable".
The April summit will discuss ways to revive the ailing global economy.
The Sunday Telegraph, which supports the opposition Conservative Party, said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hopes to "emerge glorious from the summit with news that world leaders have reached an international agreement on co-ordinated actions to stimulate growth and employment".
"We need to make sure that national stimulus packages reinforce each other so they boost total global demand, which we all depend on in a global economy," Mandelson told the paper.