Statement to the Trade Negotiations Committee
More than four years into the Doha agriculture negotiations, we have made some gains, but we have much further to travel.
The Cairns Group regards the sixth Ministerial meeting of the WTO in Hong Kong as a vital opportunity to build on what we have, and to take some significant steps forward. Put plainly, the less we achieve in Hong Kong, the greater the risks to the outlook for the negotiations in 2006.
We appreciate the effort that has gone into compiling the draft Ministerial Declaration in recent days and weeks. We continue to be committed to a bottom-up approach, building convergence from the Membership. For this reason, we also welcome the fair and balanced assessment of progress contained in the report of the Agriculture Chair. That assessment paints a sobering picture of the distance we have left to travel to fulfil the Doha mandate on agriculture, and the divergences facing us, particularly in the area of market access.
It is therefore important that this assessment is available to Ministers in Hong Kong, to inform their deliberations. It is crucially important that we use Hong Kong to capture the progress we have made to date.
But we must do more.
Hong Kong must take significant steps forward in all three pillars of agriculture, including in the key area of blockage, market access.
We should face up to the challenge of narrowing the divergences on some of the central issues facing the negotiations, including how to structure the commitments on market access and domestic support and to achieve further convergence on export competition.
We should also be able to agree how much more remains to be done to reach our goal of concluding the negotiations in 2006 and how we will get there.
Above all, we should remember that Hong Kong is not just a meeting to review progress. Rather it is an opportunity to build the basis to improve the long-term outlook for global agricultural trade and to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of farmers and their communities, particularly in developing countries.
The Cairns Group is committed to doing everything possible to make the most of that opportunity.