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It's now up to Europe ... can they reform?

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Media Release

24 June 2003 - MVT45/2003

It's now up to Europe ... can they reform?

At the conclusion of a meeting of 29 key World Trade Organisation members in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said the prospects for success in the Doha round to liberalise global trade, particularly in agriculture, required a clear indication from the European Union this week that it is willing to embark on a meaningful reform process.

Progress at the Sharm El Sheikh meeting was stymied by last week's failure by the EU to agree on an overdue proposal to reform its Common Agricultural Policy.

"The level of reform the EU is seeking, while modest, is a step in the right direction. It is essential that the reforms lead to the EU tabling a new and improved initial offer on agriculture. The rest of the world can't be held hostage to the EU’s modest internal reform processes," Mr Vaile said.

The WTO is working towards the full Ministerial Conference at Cancun, Mexico, in September. Ahead of the Cancun meeting, trade ministers of key WTO countries will have a final opportunity to seek to bridge differences at a final informal ministerial meeting in Montreal in July.

"Montreal may well be a watershed meeting in efforts to ensure that the necessary progress is made on key

issues at the Cancun meeting of the Doha Round," Mr Vaile said. "If the EU turns up empty-handed in July, it will be difficult to keep the current Doha round on track. The Sharm El Sheikh meeting made crystal clear that, as I’ve been saying now for some time, the key to progress in these negotiations lies squarely in the EU’s hands."

After failing to reach internal agreement on its plans for CAP reform last week, the EU is expected to try again to push the reform proposals through this week.

Cairns Group ambassadors and senior trade officials will meet in Geneva ahead of the Montreal meeting to analyse whether any adjustments to the CAP agreed on by the EU provide the necessary basis for the ambitious outcome on agriculture being sought by the Cairns Group.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Sharm El Sheikh meeting, Mr Vaile said: "All parties to the negotiations, both developed and developing, need to work together to move the issues forward. There was a useful and frank exchange at the meeting on issues of particular importance to developing countries, such as access to medicines and special and differential treatment. I am hopeful that these issues can be further progressed ahead of the Ministerial meeting at Cancun in September."

Contact: Matthew Doman 02 6277 7420