The World Trade Organization (WTO) cut its 2013 growth trade forecast to 3.3 percent from 4.5 percent in its annual report on Wednesday.
The WTO said it expects a slow year for exports, due in part to Europe's continuing debt crisis, though the trade organization did suggest 2014 could see a more significant increase.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy warned at a press conference against nations trying to shield their economies and restrict trade from competing countries.
"The threat of protectionism may be greater now than at any time since the start of the crisis, since other policies to restore growth have been tried and found wanting," Lamy said.
In 2012 trade grew about 2 percent, though the WTO had previously forecast a 3.7 percent rise in growth. That means 2012 saw the lowest growth increase since the WTO began keeping records in 1981.