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Cairns Group Meeting In Uruguay "Special Event"

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton leaves for the Cairns Group meeting in Uruguay on Sunday.

The Cairns Group of agricultural trading nations is made up of: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Uruguay. The group accounts for one third of the world's agricultural exports.

Since it formed in 1986, the Cairns Group has succeeded in putting agriculture on the multilateral trade agenda, and keeping it there. It was largely as a result of the Group's efforts that a framework for reform in agricultural trade was established in the Uruguay Round. For the first time, agriculture was made subject to the trade-liberalising rules set out in the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.

Mr Sutton said this year's meeting, to be held at Punta del Este in Uruguay, was important for several reasons.

"Cairns Group members have been influential in previous multilateral trade negotiations. With members from both developed and developing countries, collectively the group has the ability to spearhead negotiations and hopefully, bring about a consensus that will work for all."

It is 15 years since the launch of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations in Punta del Este. Mr Sutton said next week's meeting would be full of resonance for representatives who were keen to see another round of multilateral trade negotiations started at a World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha, Qatar, in November.

"The Cairns Group will be marking this anniversary and the return to Punta del Este with a commitment to end the discrimination against trade in agricultural goods, and to achieve ambitious objectives in reforming market access, domestic support and export subsidies."

The broad objectives of the Cairns Group lie in three key reform areas.

The Cairns Group seeks the elimination of export subsidies and substantial reductions in all forms of trade-distorting domestic support. It also wants deep cuts to all tariffs and the elimination of tariff escalation. The group has emphasised that it is committed to providing flexibility for developing countries through special and differential treatment to enable them to address food security and rural development concerns. This interest in flexibility is reflected in each of the group's negotiating proposals.

At the same time as Cairns Group trade ministers meet, farm leaders from Cairns Group countries will also be meeting in Punta del Este. Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson and chief executive Tony St Clair will be representing New Zealand at that meeting.

After the Cairns Group meeting in Punta del Este, Mr Sutton will go to Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, and will meet his counterparts: Agriculture Minister Ing Gonzalo Gonzalez, and Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Opertti.

He will also visit a local farm and a dairy factory, and will meet with a group of farmers who will be visiting New Zealand shortly as part of a project funded by a New Zealand Overseas Development Assistance grant.

Mr Sutton will return to New Zealand on Sunday, September 7.

Ends


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