A wave of protectionism is swelling around the world that could further damage struggling economies, a leading financial daily said on Monday. Industries are starting to line up in Beijing, Brussels and Washington for import protection. That has happened in past downturns, too, but this time the restrictions may bite harder because of the global nature of the problems, the Wall Street Journal said. The global turn to stimulus spending also may come wrapped in protection, as each country tries to ensure that its industries benefit, it said. In the US, congressional Democrats and their allies in steel, textile and organised labour are pushing to include strong "Buy America" provisions in a US stimulus programme that would limit spending to firms in the US. Already European officials are crying foul, it commented. "There is no such thing as free trade," the Journal quoted Daniel DiMicco, the chief executive of steelmaker Nucor Corp, who is pushing for Buy America measures, a saying. "All trade is managed." Trade protection, the paper said, can deepen economic problems and shut off a potential engine of growth at a time when consumer demand and business investment are sagging globally. The World Bank forecasts that global trade will shrink by 2.1 per cent this year, the first since 1982, it noted. While global trade deals have greatly reduced tariffs, they do little to fend off protection, it said, adding that under World Trade Organisation rules, countries establish formal tariff levels, which are often very high, and then apply lower tariffs. That gives them leeway to boost tariffs without violating WTO rules.