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The world organization fighting trade barriers Thursday accused the United States of growing protectionism through measures aimed at halting the flood of cheaper imports.

The 103-nation General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, of which the United States is a member, said in a new study that these actions force up prices on products in the United States.In its first review of U.S. trade in three years, GATT praised the United States for avoiding major trade disputes "where feasible" since 1990.

But it said "the United States has been one of the most frequent users of anti-dumping and countervailing duty actions.

"The number of new anti-dumping investigations was relatively small in the first half of 1990, but has since grown rapidly," the report says.

GATT says the U.S. government considered 27 dumping complaints in 1990, and the number had more than doubled to 57 in the first 10 months of fiscal '91.

U.S. trading partners are increasingly appealing to GATT to resolve their disputes in this area, reflecting "growing concern over the frequent use of such measures," the report said.

Ambassador Gerry Shannon of Canada told other GATT members during a two-day discussion of U.S. policies that the anti-dumping and duty laws have become the "instruments of choice for USA industries seeking protection."

Each of the member countries is periodically reviewed by the other members, who try to apply pressure through the discussion for countries to make changes in their trade policy, although GATT cannot force changes.

The GATT report says perhaps the most significant change in United States trade policy in recent years has been its attempt to establish free-trade agreements.