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Cairns Group Pushes Reform

The Cairns Group of agricultural trading nations was determined to ensure that rich countries allowed better opportunities to the poor, Trade and Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton was speaking from Banff, Canada, where the Cairns Group Ministerial meeting has been held. The two-day meeting finished today.

He said ministers from the 18 countries of the Cairns group had two days of fruitful discussions.

"The Cairns Group is in good shape as the battle for a better deal for our farmers heats up.

"I was particularly pleased that we were also able to meet with Egyptian Trade Minister Boutros-Ghali and European Agriculture Commissioner Fischler. Commissioner Fischler's remarks brought home to us the gap that must still be bridged in the agriculture negotiations. His presence, however, allowed us to begin the dialogue that is necessary.

"And Minister Boutros-Ghali highlighted what is at stake for developing countries in those negotiations. Developing countries need a more open agricultural trading regime to assist in their food security and economic development.

"That is an important message. It is one that needs to be heeded by all, and especially by those who subsidise agricultural production and impose high barriers for access to their markets."

Mr Sutton said further agricultural trade liberalisation could not happen too soon.

"We need to redouble our efforts to achieve it in the agriculture negotiations. Cairns Group Ministers are united on this."

Mr Sutton said he had been quizzed about state trading enterprises at the end of the Cairns Group meeting.

New Zealand producer boards have often been confused with state trading enterprises which receive subsidies and/or control domestic markets.

"I defended our Dairy Board as a farmer co-operative, not a conduit for any state subsidy, but one which enabled our farmers to invest collectively in market and product development and to be successful in the face of unfair trade restrictions around most of the world."

The Cairns Group is made up of Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, and Uruguay.

Mr Sutton returns to New Zealand on Sunday.

Ends

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