At the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Geneva December 2011, the Cairns Group, and the WTO more broadly, recognised that the Doha Round negotiations were at an impasse.
Yet there was a clear commitment at the WTO Ministerial meeting to continue to pursue the mandate of the Doha Development Round. In the coming months, WTO Members will be considering options to see where progress can be achieved in the negotiations.
From the Cairns Group’s perspective, we need to ensure that agricultural trade liberalisation is at the heart of these discussions. We need serious engagement from all WTO members on this issue where reforms efforts are required.
The fact that agricultural trade confronts significantly higher tariffs and increasingly more non-tariff barriers compared with industrial goods is unacceptable in a world wishing to improve global food security. Clearly part of the solution to food insecurity is a well-functioning trading system to get food from producing to consuming regions.
Why should it be easier to move industrial products around the world than food?
The global trading system, underpinned by the WTO, has a responsibility to ensure that agricultural trade reform is addressed as a matter of urgency.
As Cairns Group Ministers noted in our December communiqué “We will engage constructively in the work of the WTO through implementing the existing WTO Agreement on Agriculture and through continuing Doha negotiations on agriculture to ensure that the trade-related aspects of food security are adequately addressed.”
The theme of the World Economic Forum this year is “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models.” We have a transformation to undertake in agriculture. We will need to increase agriculture production by 70 percent by 2050 in order to feed the world’s 9 billion people at that time.
We need fresh thinking on common problems.
We need to develop a realistic pathway for capitalising on the substantial progress already made in the WTO Doha Round agriculture negotiations – but more importantly we need to get the job done.
The Cairns Group stands ready to work constructively with others to continue with the much-needed and long-overdue reform in agricultural trade.