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Cairns Group Farm Leaders seek pathway forward on agricultural trade reform at MC13

23 February 2024

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders (Farm Leaders) have reaffirmed their commitment to agricultural trade reform and reinforced the importance of a rules-based trading system at their meeting this month, ahead of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Thirteenth Ministerial Conference (MC13).

Chair of the Farm Leaders and National Farmers' Federation (Australia) President, David Jochinke, has stressed the importance for MC13 to make much needed progress on key areas of reform such as domestic support, tariff and non-tariff barriers, and the dispute settlement mechanism.

Farm Leaders reiterated their support to redouble efforts to reduce trade- and production- distorting domestic support measures, supporting the Cairns Group's proposal to substantially cap and reduce such support entitlements.

"Farmers want to compete on a level playing field, but in reality, many of our competitors are heavily subsidised, so until domestic support is addressed, that imbalance will continue to disadvantage farmers," Mr Jochinke said.

Tariff and non-tariff barriers continue to hinder trade. Farm Leaders seek assurance that non-tariff barriers do not impede the trade of agricultural products where they cannot be justified by reference to evidence-based exceptions recognized by the WTO.

Farm Leaders reiterated their growing concern at the increasing prevalence of sustainability and climate change measures being used to create further barriers to freer and fairer trade. International and domestic efforts on sustainability and climate action must be risk-, science-and evidence-based, in line with international agreements and WTO disciplines.

"Farmers make decisions every day based on risk, science and evidence, we want to see this same approach applied to the trade of our produce," Mr Jochinke said.

At a time of rising global and domestic food prices, Farm Leaders also emphasised the key role of open, transparent, and predictable agricultural trade in maintaining global food price stability and food security. Farm Leaders acknowledged that high food prices would be felt most acutely in net food importing, low-income countries.

Farm Leaders urged that Members recommit at MC13 to restoring a fully and well-functioning WTO dispute settlement system, accessible to all Members, by the end of this year, as agreed at MC12.

"The dispute settlement system provides security and predictability to the multilateral rules-based trading system," Mr Jochinke stressed.

WTO MC13 will convene from 26-29 February in Abu Dhabi, with Farm Leaders eagerly watching developments.

Farm Leaders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, New Zealand, Paraguay and Uruguay have released their MC13 Statement of Intent which can be found below.

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Previous Media Releas:
27/11/2023 Cairns Group Farm Leaders sound alarm on barriers to international trade