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WTO paper provides good basis for ag negotiations

WTO paper provides good basis for agriculture negotiations

World Trade Organisation agriculture negotiations chairman Stuart Harbinson's overview paper on progress in the negotiations is a good base document, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton welcomed the paper providing an overview of progress in the negotiation as a good basis for WTO members to conclude the current phase of the negotiations in the critical first quarter of next year.

"I am pleased with the paper prepared by the Chairman of the WTO agriculture negotiations. It provides a fair appraisal of the proposals that have been tabled so far."

New Zealand's position in the negotiations is fully reflected in Chairman Stuart Harbinson's paper, said Mr Sutton.

The overview paper includes options for so-called "modalities" for reducing agricultural tariffs and expanding quotas, for phasing out export subsidies and for major reductions in trade-distorting domestic support.

"These are all outcomes that New Zealand and the Cairns Group, along with an increasing number of developing countries, have been pushing for in the negotiations.

"Those reforms would secure the livelihood not only of our own agricultural producers, but also those in the developing world, who are continually frustrated by the antics of some rich developed countries which not only stop imports into their own markets, but dump their surplus production in others' markets.

"Of course other Members' proposals are also reflected in the Chairman's overview paper, but when the New Zealand and Cairns Group proposals are measured against the Ministerial mandate agreed by everyone in Doha, Qatar, last November our proposals come up trumps.

"For example, other Members have proposed only limited reform ? this is not consistent with the mandate. They have also proposed negotiating new rules which could in fact raise new trade barriers by limiting the use of food names, introducing gratuitous technical requirements or making unnecessary labelling rules mandatory ? these so-called non-trade concerns are not even covered by the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. "I am confident that when negotiators return to the table after the holiday period they will be able to meet the end-March 2003 deadline ? as long as they stick to the key reform agenda as required by the Doha mandate.

"And the fact is, most WTO Members simply will not sign off on a WTO Round that does not deliver real movement towards fairness in agricultural and food trade."

There will be further meetings of the agriculture negotiating group starting in Geneva on 22 January 2003. This will be followed by consideration of a first draft of negotiating 'modalities' (tariff and subsidies reduction requirements, etc.) in late February and the modalities are to be established by the end of March 2003.

The next WTO Ministerial Conference is to be held in Cancun, Mexico in September 2003 and the Doha Round concluded by 1 January 2005.

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