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Call For Cairns Group To Break WTO Deadlock

4 February 2000


Farm leaders from Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand have called on the Cairns Group of free trading countries to break the deadlock in progressing World Trade Organisation talks following the debacle in Seattle last year.

The leaders are pushing for an early launch of a new Round of WTO trade negotiations. The National Farmers' Federation said the WTO General Council would meet in Geneva on Monday (7 February) to find a way forward after Seattle. NFF President, Ian Donges said the farm leaders had called on the Government Ministers of the Cairns Group to shoulder the responsibility to broker the launch. "It is imperative that agriculture, as the most corrupted sector of world trade, be the centrepiece of the next Round," Mr Donges said. "The suggestion that WTO members -should leave things to settle, rather than risk another stalemate, represents a capitulation in global trade reform and must be resisted," Mr Donges said.

"This is totally unacceptable to millions of farmers in the Cairns Group who represent one-third of world trade in agriculture," he said. The President of Sociedad Rural Argentina, Mr Enrique Crotto, said that the worst action the WTO could take would be to do nothing, "We must not leave the issue or the launch unresolved. It would expose the WTO to criticism Chat it was ineffective in continuing the process of market opening, a process that has been sustained for over 50 years," Mr Crotto said from Buenos Aires. The President of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand, Mr Alistair Poison, said New Zealand's farmers did not accept that the re-launch of the new Round should wait for the outcome of the US elections. "There is no evidence that things will be any easier after November, and it is unwise for the multilateral system to be hijacked by the US election cycle," Mr Poison said from Wellington. "The responsibility now lies with the Cairns Group to generate ideas, and find common ground between WTO members to get the launch on track," he said. "The substantive differences between members can be dealt with in the context of the Round. The priority now is to get the Round launched."

For further information: Mr Enrique Crotto Sociedad Rural

Argentina (54) 11 324 4700 Lyall Howard, Cairns Group Farm Leaders

Secretariat (61)262733855 0419449753

Mr Ian Donges President, NFF (61) 262 733855 0419613349

Mr Alistair Poison Federated Farmers of New Zealand (64) 4473 7269 /(64) 6 342 2853

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