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Australia and Uruguay agree to cooperate on a range of agriculture, trade and food matters.

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AFFA03/185WT - 3 July 2003

Australia and Uruguay agree to cooperate on a range of agriculture, trade and food matters

Australia and Uruguay have agreed to cooperate on a range of important food, trade and agricultural matters, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, announced today.

Mr Truss signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at a meeting last night in Montevideo with the Uruguayan Minister for Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Gonzalo Gonzalez.

“The MoU’s key elements include technical cooperation to prevent the entry, establishment and spread of animal and plant pests and diseases, improving food safety and supporting the implementation of international agreements,” Mr Truss said.

“Although the trading relationship between our two countries is relatively modest, there are a number of promising areas where the MoU could help increase opportunities for Australian exporters, particularly in the field of agricultural products, services and technologies.”

Mr Truss said the MoU highlighted the excellent relationship between Australia and Uruguay in a number of international fora, particularly the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and its associated animal, plant and food regulatory agencies.

“As fellow members of the Cairns Group of ‘fair trading' nations, Uruguay and Australia are working closely in WTO negotiations to promote a freer and fairer international trading environment for agricultural products,” Mr Truss said.

“In fact, Dr Gonzalez and I have had extremely useful discussions regarding the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, and I am in no doubt that Uruguay shares Australia’s view of the importance of agricultural trade reform.”

The WTO Uruguay Round, which concluded in 1994, made significant advancements for manufacturing industries that greatly benefited countries like Japan and the European Union (EU). Australia and the Cairns Group want the Doha Round to do for world agricultural trade, what Uruguay did for the manufacturing industry.

“Uruguay shares Australian sentiments that the EU CAP reforms are woefully short of what will be required to achieve a satisfactory outcome to the WTO Round. There is also great concern that the impetus for agricultural reform in the WTO Doha Round has stalled and there needs to be genuine engagement at the forthcoming Cancun, Mexico meeting in September.

Mr Truss said Uruguay was also very interested in Australia’s foot•and •mouth (FMD) disease simulation - Exercise Minotaur — held late last year.

“Uruguay has only recently regained access to its overseas markets following an FMD outbreak, so there is a lot of interest in what Australia had learned in the wake of Exercise Minotaur,” Mr Truss said.

Before the meeting with Dr Gonzalez, Mr Truss had talks with the Uruguayan President, Dr Jorge Batlle who, like Mr Truss, is a grain and oilseed producer.

Prior to arriving in Uruguay, Mr Truss spent a day in Chile meeting with Minister for the Economy, Jorge Rodriguez, and Jamie Campos, the Minister for Agriculture.

“Formal negotiations on the US/Chile FTA took two years to complete, and the agreement is now being legislated by the Chilean Parliament,” Mr Truss said.

“The Chilean experiences in negotiating its FTA with the US provide useful information for our FTA negotiations, and provide confidence that our goals can be achieved.”

Mr Truss and Mr Campos agreed to begin negotiations for a MoU on agricultural cooperation between Australia and Chile. The MoU will provide the basis for ongoing cooperation between our Agriculture Ministers on research and development, biosecurity and technical issues.

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433