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Multilateral Trade Round Vital For Agriculture

An ambitious agenda for agriculture had to be included in the proposed new round of world trade negotiations, New Zealand agriculture and trade minister Jim Sutton told counterparts from nations attending the Cairns Group of agricultural trading nations meeting in Uruguay today.

Ministers from the World Trade Organisation are to meet in Doha, Qatar, in November to try to get a new round of multilateral trade negotiations under way.

Speaking at the first working session of the Cairns Group meeting this morning, Mr Sutton said it was necessary for all World Trade Organisation member countries to continue agricultural reform, and it was urgent that this happen so as to maintain the credibility of the world trading system.

‘Ideally, we would like to see ministers in Doha showing the will to recognise the need to continue their agricultural reforms during the negotiations and, wherever possible, to continue tariff and subsidy reductions.’

Mr Sutton warned other Cairns Group members that more than just agriculture would need to be on the table at Doha.

‘I am convinced that the best outcome for agriculture will be from the situation where agriculture is part of a broader package. To put it simply, to get what we need on agriculture, we need more than agriculture in the negotiations.’

Mr Sutton said he was optimistic about the prospects for realising the Cairns Group vision during the negotiations – that is, the elimination of all forms of export subsidies, major increases in market access, and significant reductions in trade-distorting domestic support.’

Meeting chairman and Australian trade minister Mark Vaile said when opening the meeting today that the eyes of all the other members of the World Trade Organisation were focused on the strength of the Cairns Group.

‘It is the solidarity of this particular group of countries, given our diversity, that impresses a lot of our colleagues.’

Mr Sutton said it was clear from bilateral meetings he had held and from speeches by other ministers at the Cairns Group meeting that developing nations were angry that they had failed to share fairly in the gains from the last big round of world trade negotiations, the Uruguay Round.

‘Trade is the path to future prosperity for developing nations. But many developing nations feel prevented from taking full part in the international trading system because of tariffs and other trade barriers. They are unable to compete with the massive subsidy schemes of developed nations.’

Mr Sutton said it was important that developing nations received their full share of benefits of the international trading system.

He said New Zealand was unique amongst developed nations because of its strong reliance on agricultural trade, and there were many areas of common interest between New Zealand and developing nations.

‘We all want to see an international system that allows free-flowing trade in agricultural products.’

The Cairns Group recognised that need and was working to achieve benefits for its members, both developing and developed.

Mr Sutton said the New Zealand Government recognised the importance of agriculture reforms for New Zealand exporters and consumers.

‘Some exporters face tariffs of up to 300 per cent of the value of their goods. Others face non-tariff barriers, such as restrictive and complex regulation. A recent study suggested such barriers – particularly on products such as food and beverages - cost us more than $1 billion a year.’

He said Government ministers and officials were putting effort into trade negotiations to reduce those barriers to our trade.


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