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Cairns Group Farm Leaders call for major trade reform

11 November 2016

Major exporting nations such as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and New Zealand are meeting today to lead a fresh pitch for major agricultural trade reform during a meeting of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders in Geneva.

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders - a global coalition of farm organisations from the 19 Cairns Group countries which was established in 1998 - are meeting as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Cairns Group and as part of a series of meetings in preparation for the next WTO Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires in 2017.

"Reform of agricultural trade subsidies is as urgent and crucial today as it was when the Cairns Group was first established 30 years ago," Tony Mahar, the Australian representative of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, said.

Farmers from Cairns Group countries receive minimal government support: In Brazil, farmers receive 2.6 per cent of their gross farm revenue from support measures, while Australian and New Zealand farmers receive around one per cent of their income from assistance measures. Meanwhile, the OECD average is 17 per cent. This is unsustainable and we simply cannot give up on seeking to get a more level playing field for Cairns Group farmers.

While much has been achieved through bilateral and regional free trade agreements in recent years, the elimination of export subsidies at the last WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi was a positive step forward. There is still however a significant task ahead to create a truly fair and equitable trading environment for Cairns group farmers.

Today's meeting of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, chaired by the Australian National Farmers' Federation, will continue to call for a coordinated and comprehensive approach for the removal of trade and production distorting domestic support measures within a mandated timeframe.

Our message to Trade Ministers and world leaders particularly in the current geo-political climate is loud and clear – do not retreat to the comfort of protectionism, rather have a real crack and back serious reforms to trade rules that stimulate a vibrant sustainable agriculture sector.

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders also announced today the launch of a new Cairns Group Farm Leaders website to engage a wider audience on its trade reform message. The new website showcases the work being done by Cairns Group peak farming organisations to further our common interests.

We have no illusions that the next round of WTO negotiations for agriculture will be a walk in the park but we see an ongoing responsibility and opportunity to better explain the significant outcomes that could be achieved for rural communities and farm businesses from substantial trade reform.

Next Media Releas:
9/10/2017 Cairns Group Farm Leaders call for action at MC11

Previous Media Releas:
2/12/2013 Cairns Group Farm Leaders' Bali Communique