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NZ ambassador appointed WTO agriculture chair

NZ ambassador appointed WTO agriculture chair

New Zealand's Ambassador to the WTO, Crawford Falconer, has been appointed chair of the WTO's agriculture negotiations, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton announced today.

The appointment, which was by consensus of the 148-strong membership, followed the conclusion of former ambassador Tim Groser's term as chair, after his decision to enter NZ politics.

Mr Sutton said the replacement of Tim Groser by Crawford Falconer reflected very positively on NZ's reputation in world trade negotiations.

"New Zealand is seen as a constructive player. The Government's approach to the chair issue over the past three months has been underpinned by a desire to ensure that the WTO negotiations on agriculture proceed smoothly. In the hope that there might be progress on the difficult issues of market access, and to allow sufficient time to identify a successor, we decided to support Tim Groser for an extended period in the role, until the end of this month.

"That time has come to an end and the General Council has passed the baton to Crawford Falconer."

Mr Sutton offered his congratulations and best wishes to Crawford Falconer.

"I have worked closely with Crawford throughout the Doha negotiations and I have the highest regard for his abilities which, as the General Council's decision shows, are internationally recognised."

Mr Sutton also congratulated Tim Groser on his term as agriculture chair.

"Unfortunately, there has not been the breakthrough we all hoped would come in these negotiations. This is no reflection on Tim Groser - he did what he has done throughout his career: used skill and creativity to try and thread a way through some very difficult issues. The fact is the parties failed the chair."

Mr Sutton said the outlook for the WTO Doha Round currently looked grim, but he remained optimistic of a breakthrough.

"It's about 50-50. We are running out of time to find solutions, but I am by nature an optimistic person ? you have to be to be a trade minister ? so I am hopeful that solutions can be found. As some longtime trade commentators observe, trade rounds need a crisis to force some members to focus appropriately.

"There's still hope, but we WTO members are not making it easy for ourselves."

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