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Cairns Group Demands Strong Deal For Farmers

Saturday, 2 April 2005 MVT24/2005

Cairns Group Demands Strong Deal For Farmers

The Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations are united in their commitment to ensure that the current round of world trade talks delivers significant outcomes for their farmers, Trade Minister and Chair of the Group, Mark Vaile, said today.

Mr Vaile was speaking after the conclusion of the 27th Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia.

“The fact that agriculture is at the front and centre of negotiations in the Doha round is a result of 20 years of persistence and commitment by the Cairns Group to ensure that agriculture is treated fairly,” Mr Vaile said.

“The key message from our meeting is that we must ensure that the World Trade Organization membership maintains the level of ambition we agreed at the start of this Round in 2001 and again in the so-called July framework last year.

“We have used this meeting to effectively mark a line in the sand in these negotiations – we will not accept a result that does not deliver for our farmers.”

Mr Vaile said Cairns Group Ministers had seized the opportunity in Cartagena to deliver these strong messages to Mike Johanns, US Agriculture Secretary and Mariann Fischer-Boel, the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner.

“The Cairns Group expects leadership and flexibility from the two largest WTO Members in the months ahead to ensure we get an acceptable outcome. It is a sign of the Cairns Group’s strength that both chose to attend the meeting.”

Mr Vaile said ministers had addressed the three key pillars in the agriculture negotiations:

- On export subsidies, we are agreed that it is now crucial to move quickly and lock in a date for ending these negative agricultural policies. The Cairns Group has already proposed that these instruments be phased out over three years for developed countries and six years for developing countries.

- On market access, there is a strong view among Cairns Group Ministers that we have to bring about substantial new opportunities for all products. It will simply not be enough to make tariff cuts on paper that do not deliver new trade opportunities.

- On domestic support, we have been arguing for some time that cuts must bite into current spending levels of the major subsidizers.

Mr Vaile also welcomed the support of farm organisations, including the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) – under the umbrella of the “Cairns Group Farm Leaders”– who also met in Cartagena and provided full support for these positions.

“It has also been an opportunity to remind ourselves and others that the Cairns Group is the reason that agriculture is the centre of the multilateral trade Round – and that we will continue to drive the reform process,” Mr Vaile said. “We look forward to hosting the 20th Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in Cairns, Australia, 2006.”

ENDS

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