Cairns Group Statement to the Open-Ended Session of Agriculture Negotiations

17 July 2008

The Cairns Group welcomes the revised agriculture text released on 10 July, and commends you, Chair, for your dedicated and sustained effort to secure balanced draft modalities. This revised text represents an advance on the previous version because it more clearly articulates many – though not yet all - of the key choices that will face Ministers next week.

The text on domestic support is now in quite good shape, with headline numbers clearly awaiting Ministerial decision. On that issue, the Cairns Group maintains its firm position that there must be substantial and effective cuts to overall trade distorting domestic support and clear disciplines on product specific caps. The Cairns Group re-iterates the importance of preserving the non-distorting nature of the Green Box.

On market access, the text has usefully simplified a range of provisions, including those on some issues of priority interest to the Cairns Group such as in-quota rates. The Cairns Group does not see the mid-point of your negotiating range on in-quota rates as an acceptable outcome. Within the tariff quota, there should be no impediments to making full use of the opportunities which tariff quotas are intended to provide. The only protective elements for trade should be the over-quota tariff and the volume of the tariff quota commitment. There is no justification for retaining in-quota duties and these must be eliminated for developed countries. We also welcome the greater clarity in the revised text on other pivotal questions such as tariff quota creation. For both systemic and commercial reasons, our opposition to new quota creation remains firm. The long held positions of Cairns Group members on the need for clear and ambitious results on other key issues, including Sensitive Products, remain equally firm.

In export competition, your revision highlights the options on the phasing of export subsidy volume commitments. Again, the Cairns Group is united in its position that there must be substantial reductions in subsidies by the mid-point of the implementation period through joint reductions in volume and value commitments. On food aid, we note with concern the changes to the provisions on monetisation. This is one of the relatively few areas where the revised text is less clear and less reflective of the true negotiating range than the previous text, and clearly needs further strengthening if we are to have an acceptable and balanced outcome.

Although Ministers will be arriving in the next few days, some essential elements of the draft modalities still need to be completed before an agreement is possible. Among these are topics of central importance, such as cotton, tropical products and preference erosion. We are aware of the intensive efforts that continue to be made to bridge differences on these issues, and underline the need for relevant Members to conclude these negotiations in a way that unambiguously fulfils their respective mandates.

After seven years, we have now reached the point of decision. The Cairns Group will do all it can to help draw the threads of convergence into an agreement that delivers comprehensive and substantial reform to agricultural markets and that, taking into account the interests and needs of all developing countries, fulfils the development mandate, including on S&D treatment.

Last Updated: 24 February 2016