The chiefs of three international agencies have warned leaders of the G20 group of countries that their governments have put in place more new restrictive trade measures in the last six months.

Trade in textiles, apparel and cotton were all targeted, and feature among the 122 new restrictions taken by G20 economies from mid-October 2011 to mid-April 2011. The restrictions range from tariff hikes and anti-dumping investigations to licensing and export constraints.

"Their restraint to resist protectionism appears to be under increasing pressure," warned World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) secretary-general Angel Gurria, and the head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Supachai Panitchpakdi, in their reports submitted to G20 leaders on Tuesday (24 May).

Lamy said that collectively the measures "are feeding fears" that protectionism following the recent global crisis may be gaining momentum.

Measures ushered in have included the re-introduction by Argentina of an import ban on used garments, and the extension of the list of products, which includes textiles and apparel, subject to non-automatic import licensing.

On 24 February, Russia (and also Belarus and Kazakhstan, which are part of a common free trade area) increased import tariffs on woven fabrics from 5% to 10%.

Similarly, India terminated the export ban on cotton yarn and replaced it from 31 March with a new notification that requires exports of cotton yarn to be registered with the directorate general of foreign trade.

Turkey, a major textile and apparel exporter, also initiated in January a safeguard investigation on imports of textiles and apparel, and a provisional duty is expected to be imposed on 22 July.

The WTO estimates that the new import restrictive measures taken by G20 economies cover about $56.5bn or 0.6% of total G20 imports.