Cairns Group Communiqué

20 July 2008

We, the Ministers of the Cairns Group, have met in Geneva on 20 July to agree on our approach to the negotiations at ministerial level in the coming days. An agreement is within our grasp.

We have an opportunity before us to advance our long-standing campaign to end the discrimination against agriculture in the world trading system. We must seize this historic opportunity to agree on the main parameters for agriculture commitments in the Doha Development Agenda through agreement on negotiating modalities.

We welcome the progress that has been made in the agriculture negotiations this year. The Cairns Group, through its activism and written proposals, has made a significant contribution to advancing the negotiations. The agriculture text now before Ministers provides a basis on which key outstanding issues can be resolved if there is sufficient political will. The Cairns Group commits itself to finding these solutions, which must deliver to our farmers the fundamental reforms and market openings that they expect and deserve.

We reiterate the central role of agriculture in the Doha Round: there can be no successful outcome to the Round without a substantial package of reforms on agriculture. We are committed to a Doha Round outcome that makes a significant step along the path of agricultural trade reform, and builds substantially on the gains of the Uruguay Round.

We will be seeking real and meaningful reforms in all three pillars – market access, domestic support and export competition.

  • On market access we reiterate that the outcome must generate substantial improvements in market access opportunities. This will require an outcome that includes a tariff cut sufficiently deep in each tier. It will require an agreement on the treatment of Sensitive Products that is transparent, coherent, and limited to a small number of products with meaningful compensation through substantial levels of MFN TRQ expansion based on domestic consumption[1]. We oppose demands for the creation of new tariff quotas and call for an effective tariff cap. We also call for the elimination of both the Special Agricultural Safeguard[2] and in-quota duties in developed countries and for improvements to tariff quota administration quota rules, including on underfill. We are also committed to fulfilling the long-standing commitment and mandate to achieve the fullest liberalisation of tropical and alternative products. We will work with others to agree on the issues of Special Products and the Special Safeguard Mechanism for developing countries.
  • On domestic support, it is critical that we lock in low subsidy levels at a time when world food prices and producer incomes are high. Major subsidisers have provided hundreds of billions of dollars in trade distorting support - effectively denying the opportunity for others, including low income producers in developing countries, to enter the market. This can and must change. The outcomes on domestic support, including on cotton, are critical to this objective and to the overall success of the negotiations. There must be substantial cuts to Overall Trade Distorting Support that result in an outcome at the lower end of the Chair’s range, deep cuts to the Final Bound Total AMS, and effective product specific disciplines on AMS and Blue Box support. We are determined to ensure that Green Box disciplines are strengthened.
  • To ensure that the already agreed end-date of 2013 for all forms of export subsidies is effective, we reaffirm our commitment to secure strong parallel disciplines to identify and eliminate other forms of export subsidies. On food aid this needs to include a prohibition on monetization except in limited circumstances, given the impact this practice has on commercial displacement. The subsidy element of export credits must also be eliminated. We also need an effective staging of the phase out of export subsidies on the basis of volume and value by product.

Those Members responsible for the most significant distortions in global agricultural trade, the EU, US and Japan, bear a heavy responsibility in ensuring the Membership secures these outcomes. These Members must show leadership and contribute to bridging the final gaps.

The Cairns Group will engage constructively in order to bridge these gaps during this critical period. We can and must now seize this opportunity to secure the main parameters of the Doha Round. The costs of failure are too high.

We are determined to work with the WTO Director-General and all other Members to achieve an outcome that is good for development, for agricultural trade reform and for the multilateral trading system.



[1] Canada does not share this view.

[2] Canada does not share this view.

Last Updated: 24 February 2016