More than four years into the Doha Development Agenda, the continued blockage on agriculture, and the serious risks that poses for the multilateral system, are plain for all to see.
The world desperately needs to know that the political will exists to make the Round a success.
Our goal in Hong Kong is to lay a strong foundation for the conclusion of the agriculture negotiations in 2006. We must seize the opportunity to lock in reforms made or promised, and to influence important policy directions in the largest agricultural economies - particularly in Europe and the United States. Any delay in the negotiations beyond 2006 would risk prolonging the impasse well into the future, an unsustainable outlook for the Round and one that would do serious damage to the WTO.
It is unrealistic to expect all the divergences of this negotiation to be bridged in Hong Kong. However, we can and do aspire to take significant steps forward on the shape of the package in agriculture, in all three pillars, including on special and differential treatment, and on cotton.
Three urgent tasks face us. First, we must break the impasse on agricultural market access, the main blockage facing the Round. At this stage of the negotiations, the European Union must show that it is committed to the plain meaning of the Doha mandate for substantial improvements in market access for all products, including for sensitive products.
Second, the major subsidisers must take further meaningful steps in the area of domestic support if we are to reach a final agriculture package.
Third, we must ensure that we make progress towards agreeing an early end-date no later than 2010 for the elimination of all forms of export subsidies, the most distorting of all agriculture measures.
Adherence to the plain meaning and spirit of the Doha mandate is the only path to success. Any back-sliding from the ambition it sets would not allow us to conclude the Round.
M inisters in Hong Kong must commit to making significant changes to global agricultural policies and markets. We must build the basis in Hong Kong to integrate further agriculture into world trade rules, not widen the disparity between agriculture and other sectors. We must make a real difference to the lives of our farmers. We emphasise that an ambitious package in all three pillars of the agriculture negotiations will deliver the greatest development dividend.
The Cairns Group will be evaluating developments at Hong Kong against these benchmarks.
Now is the time for all Members - particularly those most responsible for the distortions in world agricultural trade - to confront the difficult political decisions necessary to unblock these negotiations. The future of this Round depends on it.
At this, our twenty-eighth Ministerial Meeting, we are pleased to welcome the membership of Pakistan. Pakistan joins us in Hong Kong as the eighteenth member of the Cairns Group. We also welcome the interest shown in our Group by Nicaragua, which joined our meeting as an observer.
Cairns Group Farm Leaders participated in part of our meeting, and we thank them for their support.
Members of the Group are: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.