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Jim Sutton speech to FAO Pacific meeting

Jim Sutton speech to FAO Pacific meeting

FAO Pacific meeting Wellington

Ladies and Gentlemen: Welcome to Wellington. I extend an especially warm welcome to our Pacific Island friends. I am delighted that New Zealand is hosting this meeting, and that Wellington is hosting it for the third time.

I'm from Aoraki (or Mt Cook) electorate, in the South Island, myself, but I concede that Wellington has its charms. With any luck, you'll be able to see some of this city while you're here.

The Roundtable for Pacific Agreements has proven to be very useful, and is even more so this year as the multilateral trade negotiations on Agriculture gather momentum in the WTO. Vili Fuavao and his team in the FAO Sub-Regional office in Apia are to be congratulated for the enthusiasm with which they are continuing to organise this event.

New Zealand is very pleased to support this event, and does so in the knowledge of the potential gains to be made from liberalisation of the world trading system. We are pleased to share our trade policy expertise and experience.

This is particularly important as we build up to the World Trade Organisation's ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, next month, and then the FAO's full meeting in Rome, Italy, in November.

The WTO meeting is vital for countries such as all of ours ? agricultural producers and exporters, who face significant barriers in world markets.

World agricultural trade is still highly distorted.

Export subsidies amount to more than US$ 6.5 billion per year. Moreover, while New Zealand does not subsidise its farmers, a massive US$ 300 billion is paid to farmers by consumers and taxpayers annually in OECD member countries. There are tariffs of 300% or more applying to our agricultural exports in some markets. Some tariffs on staple food items reach 1000%. This is ludicrous.

The Doha Development Round WTO negotiations give us a chance to redress this situation. Reductions in these transfers of wealth to farmers in OECD countries will also help developing countries. With most of their workforce engaged in food production, the opportunity to specialise and thereby become more productive is the key to economic growth in many developing countries.

Countries in the Pacific are not immune from the devastating effect of rich countries' subsidies.

One of the negatives of globalisation is the effect policies in the rest of the world can have on us here. It is important for Pacific governments to work together to help mitigate the adverse effects on our people and to promote the positive effects.

This meeting is an important part of that process. We all need to be informed and to undertake the necessary analysis. We must strengthen our capacity to take advantage of the benefits that trade can bring.

I will be leading the New Zealand delegation to Cancun, and would like to offer your delegations to that meeting any assistance you would like. At the Doha meeting, I found it useful to meet with other Pacific delegations to assess the meeting's progress.

Capacity-building is something New Zealand takes seriously. We are pleased, through our Overseas Development Aid programme, to have been able to help several countries in the Pacific to improve their ability to participate in the international trading system.

This is also in our interest - we want to be able to trade with others, and we want them to be able to trade with us. So New Zealand believes an effort should be put into trade facilitation, as a spur to economic development.

To this end, we are using $750,000 from our aid budget to fund a position in our Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, solely to work on applications from the Pacific to import fruit and vegetables.

In New Zealand, we have strict plant and animal health quarantine rules, which can hinder the trade of such goods. Employing an official to work in this area will enable Pacific countries to work swiftly through the issues around exporting to New Zealand.

As well as that position, that grant will be used to support the work of the Regional Trade Facilitation Programme with its focus on customs, quarantine and standards and conformance issues.

These are the sorts of challenges that prevent Pacific Island Countries developing trade with their regional trading partners.

New Zealand is a strong supporter of improved trade access for the Pacific Island Countries.

We have already contributed $0.25 million to the Regional Trade Facilitation Fund and continue to fund the operations of the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commission in Auckland.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I believe trade liberalisation can be a force for good and can significantly improve living standards for all our citizens. I wish you well for your discussions.

I have great pleasure in declaring this meeting open.

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