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Jim Sutton welcomes agricultural trade proposal

Jim Sutton welcomes agricultural trade proposal

Members of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations have tabled an ambitious market access proposal during World Trade Organisation negotiations in Geneva, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the proposal if adopted would substantially open markets to agricultural products.

"This is precisely the sort of proposal that is required to deliver upon the Doha mandate of fundamental reform to international trade in agriculture."

He said that, for far too long, agriculture had been subject to discrimination in the world trading system. The proposal put forward by members of the Cairns Group, to which New Zealand belongs, would strike at the root of the current distortions and make a real difference to agricultural exporters.

"Our farmers would have, for the first time, the chance to gain genuine access to markets around the world that, for too long, have been protected behind enormous tariff walls and restrictive quota barriers, and allow them to compete on a fair and equitable footing, if our proposal could be realised."

The proposal would cut tariffs significantly using a harmonising "Swiss formula" to reduce disparities in tariffs over five years for developed countries, with lower reductions and a longer implementation period for developing countries. Tariff quota access would be expanded substantially, and the rules administering them would be improved. A new agricultural safeguard mechanism would be set up for developing countries, to help with the transition to a fully liberalised system. In recognition of their particular circumstances, least developed countries would be exempt from undertaking any reduction commitments.

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Mr Sutton said New Zealand was pleased at the strongly liberalising proposal on export subsidies that the United States tabled recently.

"But the proposal by members of the Cairns Group goes even further along the path to real reform, for example by demanding significant expansion of tariff quota access."

However, Mr Sutton warned that opposition by protectionist countries to opening their markets further remained strong.

"We hope that other World Trade Organisation members and particularly developing countries will recognise that their exporters stand to gain from the proposal, and will endorse our approach for a fair deal on reform in agricultural trade. For our part, we will continue to fight as hard as possible, and for as long as necessary, to realise an ambitious and just outcome for all New Zealand agriculture, in particular our dairy, meat, and horticulture sectors."

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