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WTO commitment to lift subsidies a boon for Australian farmers; caps off remarkable 18 months

20 December 2015

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders (CGFL) have today welcomed the 163 Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement to abolish all agriculture export subsidies in what is an historical outcome of importance for the Australian agricultural sector.

The agreement, something long advocated for by the CGFL and the first major agricultural deal in the WTO since 1994, was finalised at the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya earlier today. It will see the immediate removal of subsidies by developed members, with developing countries to follow by 2018.

The Australian representative of the CGFL, Brent Finlay, said the elimination of export subsidies had been a core objective
of the CGFL's trade policy since the 1980s and was a key contributing factor to the creation of the Australia-led Cairns Group, a unique collection of 19 developed and developing agricultural exporting countries with a commitment to achieving free trade in agriculture.

"These subsidies, worth more than $15 billion, have been a direct intervention into market operation and have had a strong distorting impact on world trade by contributing to increased output and higher export supplies form the economies that provided the assistance," Mr Finlay said.

"Subsidised trade has also increased global price volatility, lowered market returns and displaced trade by other export suppliers.

"This commitment to remove the subsidies will have important flow on benefits for all types of trading economies, both developed and developing, and will create a more even playing field for farmers from Cairns Group countries, including exporters of meat, dairy, sugar, grain, wine, horticulture and cotton.

"The Cairns Group has played an important role in achieving this outcome and has provided a coordinated approach to liberalising trade.

"The Group will continue to be a strong voice for global agriculture trade reform."

Mr Finlay said the WTO commitment capped off what had been a remarkable 12-18 months in the trade arena for farmers from Cairns Group countries.

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