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NZ welcomes Cairns Group-G20 co-operation

Media Statement 23 March 2004

NZ welcomes Cairns Group-G20 co-operation

Agreement between the Cairns Group and the G20 to work together to achieve common goals in international trade in agriculture is a milestone in international trade, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

The Cairns Group of agricultural-exporting nations and the G20 of developing nations at a meeting in Geneva last week have resolved to achieve the elimination of export subsidies and significant reductions in trade-distorting domestic support.

Mr Sutton said that meeting had to be rated as a milestone in the campaign for agricultural trade reform.

"The combined leverage of the two groups is large.

"The Cairns Group represent the nations of the world most dependent upon agricultural exports for their livelihood. The G20 are major developing countries, representing half the world's population and at least half of all food production. Together, they limit the ability of other, more protectionist, groups to claim that they represent the interests of the deserving poor in the agriculture negotiations."

Mr Sutton said the formation of the G20 was a response to the United States and European Union's retreat from the ambitious stance on agriculture adopted by the World Trade Organisation at Doha.

"It brought together major developing economies to create a new force in the agriculture negotiations. It survived efforts by both the United States and the European Union to break it up. However, for various reasons, the G20 and the Cairns Group failed to effectively work together in the WTO ministerial meeting at Cancun last September.

"We seem to have put this behind us. Last week's meeting of officials in Geneva followed the breakthrough Cairns Group ministers achieved in Costa Rica, with the decision to propose getting together with the G20 in Geneva and there was an unanimous welcome to the Cairns Group initiative from the G20."

A G20 spokesman said that now there were signals of flexibility, especially from the United States, the group was working towards achieving agreement on the way forward by July. For the G20, it would be critical to probe and test for real flexibilities in the United States, European Commission, and Japanese positions.

A South American ambassador felt the Cairns Group and G20 were the only participants in the WTO negotiations who would defend the Doha mandate on agriculture. He wanted to see the two groups working together in a practical way.

It was agreed that the two groups should meet soon at a technical level.

Mr Sutton said it was clear at the meeting that both Cairns and G20 members remained fully committed to positions taken in earlier exchanges, all opposing suggestions from the EC that we back off from requiring the elimination of all forms of export subsidies.

ENDS


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