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Finally…… An Agreement to Launch

15 November 2001 Media Statement
Finally…… An Agreement to Launch

The WTO membership agreed to launch a round of world trade negotiations today, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said.

Mr Sutton, speaking from the WTO ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, hailed the decision to launch a new round as a triumph of vision over narrow sectoral interest.

"This text has wins for all members: developed, developing, north, south, rich, and poor."

This is a comprehensive agreement which provides a mandate for market access negotiations in agriculture, industrial products and services. It also provides the basis for the further development of WTO rules and work in the trade and environment area.

Most importantly the text included reference to phasing out agricultural export subsidies, a vital issue for New Zealand, Mr Sutton said.

"Export subsidies not only reward inefficient farmers with bad farming practices, but they damage the prices efficient farmers receive in their international and domestic markets."

"New Zealand, Australia, and other members of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations, and developing nations reliant on agriculture are then unable to use our competitive advantage."

He said that during the six day WTO meeting, he had heard extremely moving speeches from representatives of developing nations who saw a liberalised market access for agricultural products as the only way they have of improving the living standards of their citizens.

"Agriculture is the key industry for most developing nations and they need to be able to sell their products in the markets of rich nations if they are to become richer themselves."

"This text offers an opportunity to do something to achieve that and to rectify some of the inequities in the international trading system."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand would participate fully and vigorously in the new round of world trade negotiations. He said the launch declaration had been achieved through the painstaking process of negotiation, discussion and consultation.

"The WTO is a totally democratic organisation, even though we do not vote on issues. Rather than majority rule, all decisions are made by consensus. All must agree."

"The WTO has a saying: "all must be agreed or nothing is agreed". We have seen that today."

Mr Sutton said this new round was focused on development. It would be called the "Doha Development Agenda".

"Countries do not belong to the WTO for trivial reasons. They join to improve the lives of their citizens. They can do that best by trading their products on the international market. To do that well, they need access to the markets of the rich."

Mr Sutton said the declaration text, approved at 6.30pm (4.30am NZ time), would be a solid basis for a new round.


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