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Cairns Group Farm Leaders call for urgent action on WTO ag trade reform

3 June 2022

The international coalition of farm organisations, Cairns Group Farm Leaders, has highlighted the need for urgent agricultural trade reform to meet global challenges of food security, climate change and hunger ahead of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference and a Cairns Group WTO meeting.

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders was founded in 1998 to provide a farmer voice to the need for global reforms that would allow truly free, liberalised international trade in agriculture. It brings together farm leaders from developed and developing countries across the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. The Cairns Farm Leaders Group works in conjunction with the Cairns Ministers Group, a coalition of governments from the Cairns countries which work together in the WTO to dismantle barriers to trade in agriculture.

Cairns Group Farm Leaders chair and Australian National Farmers' Federation President, Fiona Simson, said agriculture was currently the most distorted sector in world trade markets and meaningful outcomes were needed on agricultural trade reform.

"If farmers are going to address the challenge of feeding a growing world population - projected to be over 9 billion by 2050 - in the face of a changing climate, we urgently need a multilateral trading system that is based on open, stable and transparent rules.

"We have identified a number of obstacles that hurt farmers and consumers across the world in the ability to get food from paddocks and onto kitchen tables.

"Let's be very clear, propping up unsustainable farming practices and erecting trade barriers means less food being produced globally, and at a higher price. This will hurt the poorest globally, and exacerbate their food and nutritional insecurity."

These barriers include domestic support measures which reward inefficient and unsustainable farming practices, burdensome customs procedures which lead to high levels of food perishing as they await customs clearance in ports, the imposition of protectionist and sudden export restrictions which stop vital supplies reaching those that are dependent on them, and the imposition of arbitrary standards without a science based and adequate justification.

In support of action on agricultural trade reform, farm leaders from Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, New Zealand, Paraguay and South Africa delivered a statement to ministers of the Cairns Group.

The statement by the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, which was delivered ahead of the 12th Ministerial conference of the World Trading Organisation (WTO MC12), highlights the following:

• Need to ensure meaningful outcomes on agricultural trade reform at the 12th Ministerial Conference and progress the stalled agricultural trade reform agenda, to maintain confidence in the rules based multilateral system.
• Need to ensure full functioning of WTO dispute settlement institutions and processes.
• Need to ensure reform of trade- and production-distorting agriculture domestic support entitlements.
• Importance of ensuring international and domestic efforts on sustainability and climate action are science-based, and ensure that issues of sustainability and food security or co-optimised.
• Recognise the vital role played by trade in ensuring positive outcomes on climate change and food security.
• Importance of tackling tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, particularly the increasing incidence of agricultural regulations that are not grounded in a robust evidence and science-based approach.

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Next Media Releas:
11/11/2022 Cairns Group Farm Leaders Statement on the need for cohesive inclusive and coherent global policies to meet the challenges of climate change

Previous Media Releas:
3/6/2020 Cairns Group Farm Leaders Reaffirm the Importance of The Open, Fair and Rules-Based Trade of Agricultural Goods to Food Security During The COVID-19 Pandemic