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Cairns Group To Fight For Agriculture

Media Statement
26 February 2004

Cairns Group Determination For Agriculture Even Stronger

The Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations is determined to fight for an ambitious outcome for agriculture in the new phase of the World Trade Organisation's Doha Round of negotiations.

The 17-member group, meeting in San José, Costa Rica, today issued a communiqué signaling the Group's determination for an ambitious agriculture outcome.

Trade Negotiations and Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said the Cairns Group was united in its resolve to keep other countries honest on agriculture.

"WTO Ministers all signed a declaration in Doha in 2001 which set the path to substantial reform. We saw at the WTO Conference in Mexico last September that some countries were trying to wriggle out of that commitment, and shortchange the world's farmers.

"That won't happen. Developing countries need a fair go ? they've been shut out for too long."

Mr Sutton led a constructive and detailed discussion on market access, and said he was pleased with where the group got to.

"We reaffirmed that increased market access for all products, in all markets ? including developing-country markets ? is central to our objectives. That said, the Cairns Group is prepared to take political realities into account in deciding how that access should be provided. We also agreed that developing countries have genuine development concerns, and we need to elaborate on targeted measures to address those specific concerns."

"On export subsidies, the Group remains adamant: these measures must go. They stultify development and harm efficient, unsubsidised producers like New Zealand dairy farmers. The Cairns Group is not prepared to enter into tactical games which could ultimately let some export subsidies off the hook."

United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Mexican Foreign Minister Ernesto Derbez, WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, Chair-designate of the agriculture negotiations committee and New Zealand Ambassador Tim Groser, and representatives of Cairns Group Farm Leaders all attended part of the meeting as special guests.

Mr Sutton said Cairns Group members had a fruitful exchange with Bob Zoellick.

"I was impressed by his determination to make a success of the Round."

Mr Sutton is traveling on to Washington for separate meetings with USTR Zoellick on trade matters.

The Group now has an active work programme to refine positions and reach out to other participants in the negotiations, such as the G20 group of developing nations.

"I look forward to working closely with the G20. We both want to see an end to the distortions in world agriculture caused by domestic support and export subsidies."

Agriculture accounts for over half New Zealand's exports of goods, and around sixteen percent of GDP (including the agri-processing sector). Key exports are dairy, meat, kiwifruit and apples

ENDS


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