THE global economic crisis may reverse gains in poverty reduction and slash economic growth in least developed countries, World Trade Organisation Director Pascal Lamy told a conference in Siem Reap on Wednesday.
The comments came as trade ministers and delegates from 49 of the world's poorest nations gathered for two days of talks on trade liberalisation and the world market meltdown.
"We are seeing an unprecedented financial crisis with an epicenter in the USA, but now spreading to the real economy around the world," he said.
"Medium-term growth prospects for the LDCs are grim," he added.
With the political rift between rich and poor countries widening over protectionism in the developed world, the WTO chief urged a common approach to the crisis.
"There is a strong sense that we are all on the same boat and that we must act and coordinate together if we are to lift ourselves," he said.
But in his opening speech to the conference, Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out against protectionism in the West.
He said the world's poorest countries were suffering "strong trade barriers", with tariffs and strict controls hampering their access to world markets.