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Jim Sutton to attend ASEAN, Cairns Group meeting

Jim Sutton to attend ASEAN, Cairns Group meetings


Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton is to attend the annual meetings of the Association of South East Asian Nations and Closer Economic Relationship economic ministers in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the Cairns Group in Banff, Canada during the next two weeks.

Mr Sutton leaves New Zealand on Wednesday, October 4, for Bangkok.

There, he will meet new Thai agriculture and cooperatives minister, Prapat Pothasuthon , before going on to Chiang Mai for the ASEAN-CER meeting. At that meeting, trade ministers from South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand will discuss CER's programme of trade facilitation and co-operation with ASEAN. Also on the agenda is a report for ministers recommending that they support the concept of linking the AFTA and CER trade agreements.

Mr Sutton also hopes to meet European and American trade representatives, who have annual consultation meetings with ASEAN at the same time.

"The concept of linking AFTA and CER is an exciting one and one well worth exploring."

However, he noted that any move to negotiating such a link would need to be mandated by the New Zealand Cabinet first.

>From Chiang Mai, Mr Sutton is transiting through Hong Kong and will briefly meet his Hong Kong counterpart, Brian Chau, before flying to Canada.

Mr Sutton will then travel to Vancouver for meetings with local business leaders, and then to Banff to attend the meeting of the Cairns Group of agricultural trading nations and to meet Canadian agriculture minister, Lyle Vanclief.

Among the subjects for discussion at the Cairns Group meeting is the negotiating proposal on domestic subsidies the group tabled last week at the special negotiations on agriculture in Geneva. That proposal calls for major reductions in domestic subsidies (including an initial 50% cut), the elimination of trade-distorting support, tighter rules on allowable subsidies, and for subsidy limits to be imposed on a product-specific basis.

Mr Sutton said agricultural subsidies had been bad news for New Zealand and he welcomed the Cairns Group's initiative to ensure unfair subsidies were abolished.

"I was delighted at the broad support the Cairns Group's proposal on export subsidies received at the meeting I attended in Geneva in June. I am confident that this latest proposal on domestic subsidies will be similarly welcomed."

"We should be able to do a lot better than we did in the Uruguay Round. For all too long, agricultural subsidy practices have been allowed to flourish, at the expense of efficient agriculture producing countries, such as New Zealand. And even more critically, it is at the expense of economic development and food security for poorer countries."

"I welcome the Cairns Group's continued leadership on agricultural trade reform. I am looking forward to discussing with my Ministerial colleagues in Banff what more the Cairns Group could and should be doing to improve the lot of farmers worldwide."

Mr Sutton returns to New Zealand on Sunday, October 15.

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