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Cairns Group forces the pace on agricultural trade

Cairns Group forces the pace on agricultural trade reform

New Zealand and fellow Cairns Group members are united in determination that the Doha Round will deliver on agriculture, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

He said a solid result from the Doha Round was vital for our export performance and the whole economy.

Mr Sutton is attending the 24th Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

"Fundamental agricultural trade liberalisation is one of the best forms of development assistance that developing countries could receive." Fourteen out of the 17 members of the Cairns Group are developing countries. The Cairns Group agreed members should work closely with other developing countries with whom they share common interests in a strong result on agriculture.

Mr Sutton said the Doha Round was now entering a crucial phase.

"The Bolivia meeting of the CG is an essential opportunity for agricultural exporters to agree on what steps to take in the months ahead. We agreed that we must take a united and coherent view that the starting point for the negotiations is the mandate agreed in Doha last November - reduction in export subsidies with a view to phasing them out, substantial improvements in market access and substantial reductions to agricultural domestic subsidies.

Cairns Group Ministers called for all participants, but especially the EU and Japan, to come forward with detailed proposals that reflect the decisions of Ministers at Doha.

"We have a tight timeline and we all need to do our bit to keep up the momentum."

The CG and the US have already put forward ambitious reform proposals consistent with the Doha mandate and it is now important that other players meet their responsibilities in similar fashion.

Mr Sutton said Cairns Group Ministers agreed that agriculture had been the orphan of the world trading system for far too long - and they were not about to the let the opportunity for major reform pass. Farm Leaders from Cairns Group countries were also meeting in Santa Cruz. Mr Sutton said he was delighted that Federated Farmers President Tom Lambie and CEO Tony St Clair were able to attend and ensure that farming organisations would work alongside governments to advance reform in agricultural trade.

Mr Sutton met with a number of his Cairns Group counterparts to discuss bilateral matters and progress the WTO agricultural negotiations. The Cairns Group also met with special guests United States Trade Representative Bob Zoellick, the new World Trade Organisation Director-General Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, Ugandan Minister for Tourism, Trade and Industry Prof Edward Rugamayo, and Chinese ambassador to the WTO Sun Zhenyu to exchange views on the WTO agriculture negotiations.

Special Agriculture Trade Envoy Graham Fraser also attended as part of the New Zealand delegation and was able to build his linkages with farm leaders and trade officials.

Cairns Group comprises Australia, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

Mr Sutton is now traveling to Los Cabos, Mexico to attend the APEC Ministerial Meeting where discussions on the WTO Trade negotiations are likely to be a key feature of the discussions.

© Scoop Media

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