SEOUL, March 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean exporters will likely continue to face growing protectionism this year as economies around the globe struggle to create jobs and shield their local industries from a prolonged economic slowdown, industry data showed Wednesday.

According to the data compiled by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) and the local steel industry, a total of 127 import restrictions, including anti-dumping measures, were imposed on South Korean-made goods as of February this year, compared with 120 cases at the end of last year.

The end-February figure also compares with 111 posted at the end of 2011, according to the data.

"Steel and petrochemical sectors, in particular, are feared to face growing protectionism this year as their price competitiveness improved in overseas markets on expanded output capacity," said Kim Jeong-su, an official at the KITA.

Steel and petrochemical goods accounted for 73 percent of the total with 93 cases, with the U.S., China and India making up almost half of them, they showed.

China, South Korea's top trading partner, is imposing anti-dumping tariffs on 16 South Korean products like synthetic rubber, according to the KITA.

The neighboring country is also considering raising the anti-dumping tariff on South Korean-made optical fiber, and is widely expected to take a similar measure on polysilicon manufactured by South Korean firms, according to the report.

In December, the U.S. Commerce Department reached a final decision to slap heavy anti-dumping duties on South Korean-made washing machines.

Recently, developing countries are also actively adopting trade protectionism, according to the data.

Malaysia is launching an anti-dumping probe into galvanized steel sheets manufactured by South Korean companies, and Australia is also taking a similar step toward South Korean steel plates, according to the data.

"Emerging economies rely on imports for their production," said Hwang Kyu-won, an analyst at Tongyang Securities. "Non-tariff measures are their best options to protect their local industries."

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