The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP

Media release

20 February 2004 - MVT11/2004

Cairns Group Talks on Progressing Agriculture Trade Reform

Trade Minister Mark Vaile departs for Costa Rica tomorrow to chair the 26th Ministerial Meeting of the Cairns Group of agricultural fair trading nations in San Jos´┐Ż, from 23-25 February.

The meeting comes at a crucial time in the Doha round of World Trade Organisation negotiations and the Government's efforts to deliver multilateral agricultural trade reform. WTO members are preparing to re-start the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations following the disappointing outcome of the Cancun Ministerial Conference last September.

"Achieving outcomes for Australian farmers and industry in the WTO negotiations remains the Government's highest priority and agriculture is the key to unblocking the entire Doha agenda," Mr Vaile said.

"Unless there is meaningful progress on agriculture over the next few months the Doha round will go nowhere in 2004. Everyone will lose if WTO members lose sight of the main game genuine, long-term reform and liberalisation.

"As a leading voice for agricultural reform since its formation in 1986, the Cairns Group has a central role to play in getting the agriculture negotiations back on track to deliver a strong outcome that meets the ambitious reform objectives set out in the Doha Declaration which launched WTO negotiations in 2001.

"We will discuss strategies to accelerate progress on agriculture and will look at ways to keep maximum pressure on all sides especially the major users of agricultural subsidies to work constructively for an outcome that delivers substantial improvements in market access, substantial cuts in domestic support and the phasing out of export subsidies. There have been some promising signs from the United States and the European Union on their commitment to moving forward in the agriculture negotiations and we must ensure that they deliver on this commitment."

The Cairns Group will also meet with WTO Director General Supachai, US Trade representative Bob Zoellick, Mexican foreign minister Luis Derbez and Cairns Group Farm leaders during the talks in Costa Rica.

Cairns Group members are: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

Media contact: Matthew Doman 02 6277 7420

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