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Australia Welcomes Global Agricultural Reform

Australia Welcomes Plans for Global Agricultural Reform

Australian farmers stand to benefit significantly from US agricultural reform proposals for the World Trade Organisation negotiations, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said today.

Mr Vaile said ambitious reform proposals for reducing domestic support and tariffs on agricultural products, announced by US Trade Representative Bob Zoellick overnight, would significantlyimprove access to markets for Australian farmers and would help build pressure for early engagement by the EU and Japan in the Doha Round agriculture negotiations.

"The proposals would limit distorting subsidies to five per cent of the value of a WTO member's total agricultural production. For Australia's major trading partners this would mean significant reductions in the amount they can spend on their farmers. Under the proposals the US would be required to reduce its maximum handouts to farmers from about US$20 billion to about US$10 billion; the EU from over US$60 billion to about US$12 billion; and Japan from about US$30 billion to about US$5 billion," Mr Vaile said.

"If adopted, the proposals would mean significant improvements in market access with considerable tariff reform in the most highly protected sectors of world agriculture such as dairy, beef, sugar and rice. Tariff rate quota quantities would expand by 20 per cent and in quota duties would be eliminated over a period of five years meaning increased access for Australian agricultural produce into world markets.

"The US proposals clearly demonstrate its commitment to engage seriously in WTO negotiations on agriculture. Successful passage of Trade Promotion Authority legislation through Congress now would underscore this commitment and increase the impact of the proposals on the negotiations.

"These proposals represent the first genuine effort by a major player outside of the Cairns Group to put a detailed blueprint on the table for agricultural reform.

"While Australian negotiators are still assessing details of the US proposals, I can say the US initiative will inject much needed momentum into the WTO negotiations to reform global farm trade and improve access for farmers.

"Australia as the leader of the Cairns Group has ambitious goals for improving the trading circumstances for our farmers. We are working determinedly to hold major agricultural countries including the US to the strong reform mandate established for negotiations by the WTO Doha Ministerial Meeting, last November.

"Australia has welcomed moves by the EU to reform its own heavily subsidised farm sector. But the EU needs to go further than the proposals on the table in Brussels. We now look to both the EU and Japan to show similar reform ambition."

Friday, 26 July 2002

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