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Cairns Group calls on WTO members to keep promise.

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Monday 21 October 2002 - MVT127/2002

Cairns Group Calls on WTO Members to Keep Promise

The Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, has called on World Trade Organisation members to fulfil the commitments they made last November at Doha to reform world agricultural trade.

Cairns Group Ministers confirmed their own commitment to comprehensive reform, but emphasised that the ability of developing countries to reduce their own market access barriers was dependent on progress in reducing trade-distorting domestic support and export subsidies.

Cairns Group Chair, Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile expressed his concern that some key developed countries were indicating a limited willingness to make fundamental reform.  He said the time had come for all WTO members to put serious reform proposals on the table which met the commitments they had made in Doha almost 12 months ago.

"The Cairns Group has already put forward ambitious proposals on each of the reform pillars of the Doha mandate and now challenges others to do the same," Mr Vaile said.

"WTO members, including the European Union and Japan, need to demonstrate they are prepared to come to the table."

Ministers agreed on an action plan to ensure there is progress in the negotiations.  The action plan includes intensifying efforts to engage developing countries, and building strategies to sell the Cairns Group message in a range of capitals.

Mr Vaile said the participation in the meeting of guests including WTO Director-General Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Ugandan Minister for Tourism, Trade and Industry, Edward Rugumayo and Chinese WTO Ambassador Sun Zhenyu underscored the influence of the Cairns Group in the agriculture negotiations.

"The Doha mandate on agriculture represents an historic opportunity to help developing countries benefit from the strong contribution which agricultural growth can make to their economic growth.  Leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September underlined the fundamental importance of agricultural reform to economic development," Mr Vaile said.

The ministerial meeting also included discussions with Cairns Group farm

leaders, the Global Sugar Alliance and the newly-formed Global Dairy Alliance.

"Industry has a vital role to play in highlighting the high costs of agricultural protection and support and assisting the Cairns Group to tackle these problems effectively.  We will continue to work in partnership with industry leaders in our efforts to reform world agricultural trade," Mr Vaile said.

Media Contact: Mark Croxford +61 02 6277 7420

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Local Date: Wednesday, 23-Oct-2002 09:41:39 EST