The moment has arrived in this Round to face up to the difficult decisions required to bring about a fairer trading environment for the world’s farmers.
The Cairns Group has put agriculture at the centre of this Round and we will ensure that a significant result is achieved. We reiterate that there can be no successful outcome to the Doha Round without a substantial package of reforms in agriculture. Agriculture has waited long enough. Today, more than ever, the discrimination against agriculture must end.
The Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in Hong Kong will be critical to advancing this goal.
We have committed ourselves to achieving agreement on modalities for agriculture by this time and to this end have agreed to intensify our engagement in coming months.
Cairns Group Ministers will apply the same level of ambition we have applied since the outset of these negotiations. We seek the elimination of all forms of export subsidies, substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support, and substantial improvements in market access opportunities for all products.
We are concerned that some in the WTO Membership appear to be attracted to moving away from the level of ambition we agreed at the outset of this Round. That would be a perilous development. A lowering of the agreed level of ambition in agriculture would risk unravelling the success of the entire Doha agenda.
Reforms agreed in this Round must deliver real cuts in subsidies and protection to ensure our farmers see genuine change on world markets. This result will be particularly important for developing countries.
Now is the time to deliver on that promise.
We have identified the following as essential elements of our approach to the negotiations in the lead up to Hong Kong.
We welcome the agreement achieved in the July Decision on the elimination of all forms of export subsidies, given their pernicious effects on agricultural markets. Ministers recalled the Cairns Group’s position,in 2002, for developed countries to phase out their export subsidies in a period as short as possible.
We have long argued that the billions of dollars poured into farm support programs by rich governments undermine the prospects of efficient, unsubsidised, producers – particularly in developing countries. Our level of ambition is clear: in order to be substantial, reductions to trade-distorting domestic support must cut significantly into the current spending levels of the major developed countries.
Special and differential treatment for de minimis support must acknowledge that developing countries often allocate their limited entitlements to subsistence and resource-poor farmers and do not have the capacity to compete in farm subsidy wars. Developing countries that allocate almost all de minimis support for subsistence and resource-poor farmers will be exempt from reduction.
We will not settle for an outcome that would weaken the current architecture for domestic support or allow trade-distorting support for any product to increase. Criteria for the Green Box must ensure that these measures have no, or at most minimal, trade-distorting effects or effects on production. Similarly, Blue Box criteria must ensure that these payments are truly less trade-distorting than Amber Box measures.
Concrete improvements in market access must pass the same benchmark test of making a difference to the lives of our farmers. We will not allow market access to once again escape serious reform. As agreed in the July Decision, reforms to market access must provide substantial new opportunities for all products in all markets.
The tiered tariff reduction formula will be the key to ensuring this Round delivers new trade flows including by tackling tariff peaks and tariff escalation. We will ensure that we achieve the Framework’s requirement of substantial improvement in access for sensitive products, through combinations of tariff reductions and tariff quota expansion.
The Cairns Group has contributed significantly to efforts to find a way forward on the issue of converting non-ad valorem tariffs to their ad valorem equivalents. We urge all Members to make similar contributions. We are disappointed that despite our efforts, and the flexibility we have shown, the issue has yet to be resolved. Equally, we will not compromise on the need to ensure integrity in that process.
We reaffirm the importance for many WTO Members, especially least developed countries, of tangible results from the initiative on cotton and the urgent need to address this issue in accordance with the July Framework.
A strong outcome in the Doha Round provides the best guarantee for developing countries that food security will not be undermined, and the best possible climate for sustainable development, including to address poverty alleviation and the particular development concerns of their rural populations. Special and differential treatment, including the concepts of the Special Safeguard Mechanism and Special Products, will be essential to assist developing countries to best adapt to liberalisation. Special and differential treatment should be designed in such a way as to facilitate the continued growth in trade of agricultural products.
In line with paragraph 43 of the Framework text, we reiterate our commitment to achieve the fullest liberalisation of trade in tropical agricultural products and for products of particular importance to the diversification of production from the growing of illicit narcotic crops.
Ministers also recognised the needs and concerns of small and vulnerable economies must be addressed during this negotiation according to paragraph 35 of the Doha mandate without creating a sub-category of Members.
We urge all WTO Members to avoid implementing or re-introducing any trade-distorting measures against the spirit of the liberalising objectives of the Doha Round, especially any new export subsidies.
The period leading up to Hong Kong will require the leadership of the Cairns Group and of many in the WTO community. We will work closely with other groups to achieve our goals. We call, in particular, on all WTO Members which are responsible for the distortions in global agriculture to show leadership. This leadership must begin by accepting that a fairer environment for global agriculture will require significant changes to their domestic and trade policy settings.
Our meeting in Cartagena has benefited from constructive discussions with our colleagues from the United States (Secretary of Agriculture, Mr Mike Johanns), the European Communities (Agriculture Commissioner, Ms Mariann Fisher Boel), Kenya (Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi), and negotiating Chair, Ambassador Tim Groser.
We have also appreciated the presence in Cartagena of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, the Global Dairy Alliance and the Global Sugar Alliance, and their statements of strong support for the Group’s positions in the negotiations.
We wish to express our appreciation to Ministers Botero and Arias and the Colombian Government for their generosity and hospitality in hosting the 27th Ministerial Meeting of the Cairns Group.