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Jim Sutton on trade talks

Hon Jim Sutton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity, Minister for Trade Negotiations, and Associate Minister for Rural Affairs

13 October 2005

Jim Sutton on trade talks

The political will to push the WTO agriculture negotiations forward was clearly evident, but positions were still far apart in some areas, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton was one of 11 trade ministers attending the "FIPS Plus" group meeting in Geneva yesterday, trying to find a way forward in the deadlocked WTO agriculture negotiation.

Earlier in the week, the United States had offered to make deep cuts in its trade distorting farm subsidies. Mr Sutton said that this had provided a vital boost to the negotiation.

"My feeling is that the US domestic support proposal will have a comparable effect to the European Union's 2003 reform of its Common Agricultural Policy. While some say neither move goes far enough, they have provided enough of a basis to unblock the discussion and move forward."

The same cannot be said for negotiations aimed at opening markets. Positions remain far apart.

"While the EU recommitted itself to the mandate - a substantial improvement in market access for all products - its proposals did not match that commitment. The G10 (including Switzerland, Norway, Japan and other big subsidisers) is also falling short."

Mr Sutton said WTO members agreed that all markets must show real improvements in access. This would, of course, be subject to appropriate special and differential treatment for developing countries.

"It is essential that the work on market access is brought up to the same level as domestic and export subsidies where there is a good basis for a deal. We now need realistic proposals that will lead to genuine market access. This is the blockage that must be cleared - and cleared quickly - if we want a successful Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December."

Mr Sutton also had bilateral meetings with several Ministers, including US Trade Representative Rob Portman, and WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.

ENDS

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