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Cairns Group United In Build-Up To Doha

The Cairns Group of agricultural trading nations has re-affirmed its unity of purpose in the build-up to a possible new world trade round, New Zealand trade minister Jim Sutton said today.

The Cairns Group, a group of mainly southern hemisphere agricultural exporting countries, finished a three-day meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay today.

Mr Sutton said he was pleased New Zealand had been able to make a very effective contribution to the meeting.

'New Zealand has played a significant role in the 15-year history of the Cairns Group, and this continued at this week's meeting,' he said.

'Our voice has been heard clearly at Punta del Este, and there is a real resonance between New Zealand and other Cairns Group members' views about how to get a good result at the Doha meeting.

'New Zealand has been able to influence the result of this meeting. In international forums such as this one, we punch above our weight.'

Mr Sutton said the members of the Cairns Group were clearly aware that there were only 65 days till the World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha, Qatar, and they were very focused on the need to launch a round of world trade negotiations.

He said the Cairns Group communique, released today at the close of the meeting, was explicit about the need for further agricultural reform.

'The time was well overdue to bring agriculture fully under the World Trade Organisation so that producers could compete fairly on the basis of their comparative advantage.'

Cairns Group ministers expressed concern that total Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development nations' support of agriculture was running at almost US$1 billion a day, and that protection provided by both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, including unjustified sanitary and phytosanitary (plant and animal health) measures, remained very high.

The ministers emphasised their concern over the loss of momentum in the reform process and reaffirmed the Cairns Group's commitment to establish a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system.

'The group is more united and determined than ever to push for agricultural reform.'

Mr Sutton said all New Zealanders could benefit from a new round.

'Recent reports suggest that trade barriers, particularly on our food products, cost us $1 billion a year. We have a lot to gain from global agricultural reform.'

Mr Sutton said that, as well as freeing the world trading system of distortions, continued agricultural reform would significantly help developing nations.

'Many of the developing nations at this Cairns Group meeting spoke of their anger at how trade barriers prevent their products being sold in the world's richest markets and how, at the same time, export subsidies for farmers in the world's richest countries meant that surpluses from those countries sold in developing nations' markets destroyed the value of the local produce.

'For New Zealand, those same export subsidies harm the competitiveness of our agricultural products in third markets.'

Mr Sutton said there was a lot of work to be done from now till the Doha meeting, and New Zealand would be fully involved in that work.

He said the attendance of the United States agriculture secretary Ann Veneman and trade representative Robert Zoellick at the Punta del Este meeting was useful for the Cairns Group.

'The United States is the largest agricultural exporting nation in the world, and the United States administration sees itself as a natural partner for the Cairns Group in achieving agricultural reform in a potential new world trade round.'

Ends

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