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

Media release

Sunday, 16 May 2004 - MVT34/2004

Progress at WTO Ministers' Meeting

Trade Minister Mark Vaile says he is encouraged by important progress made at an informal meeting of World Trade Organisation trade ministers held in Paris on 14 May. It sent a strong message of political commitment to advancing the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

"Ministers agreed to push on to develop agreements on some critical unresolved issues by the end of July. The most important of them is a framework text on agriculture," Mr Vaile said.

Mr Vaile said that there had been encouraging convergence on some aspects of the agriculture negotiation and the remaining problems were better understood.

The EU's proposal to eliminate agricultural export subsidies was welcomed and there has been progress on how to tackle domestic subsidies. Agricultural market access remains the most difficult issue.

"The Cairns Group has agreed to take the lead, along with the Group of 20, in developing new ideas to bridge wide differences among WTO members on the market access issue," Mr Vaile said.

"We need an approach which will deliver real improvements in trade flows."

Mr Vaile also welcomed agreement on a pragmatic way forward on the Singapore Issues which had triggered the breakdown in negotiations at Cancun last September. Ministers agreed that the negotiations should only include trade facilitation, with the other Singapore Issues (competition policy, investment and transparency in government procurement) remaining under study in the WTO.

All agreed that progress in agriculture was the key to unblocking other important areas of the Doha negotiation. Movement on industrial products was expected if the package on agriculture could be tied down.

"Encouraging progress was made but clearly we still have difficult issues to resolve," Mr Vaile said.

"The discussion now has to be widened to the rest of the WTO membership."

The next WTO negotiating session on agriculture is scheduled to be held in Geneva 2-4 June.

Contact: Matthew Doman (ministerial) 02 6277 7420 - Nicole Guihot (departmental) 02 6261 1555

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