The Cairns Group is encouraged by the intensity of engagement that Members have displayed over recent months in agriculture negotiations.
We must act decisively in the new year to complete agriculture modalities, and secure important reforms to the global agricultural trading system. The Cairns Group reiterates its commitment to this task. In taking the work forward, however, we must be clear about the outstanding gaps and what remains at risk in these negotiations.
The contours of export competition have taken shape, with growing consensus around disciplines that will add to existing WTO rules. That said, the Cairns Group will remain vigilant in ensuring that important areas of the mandate are clearly fulfilled. These include elimination of commercial displacement in food aid and the elimination of export subsidies - with reduction commitments in both value and volume terms, and consistent with the Hong Kong mandate.
In domestic support, percentage cuts at the higher end of the ranges and strong disciplines on product-specific support will be central to effective reductions in trade-distorting support by the major subsidisers. Greater clarity is required in relation to disciplines on Blue and Green Box payments, and the mandate on cotton also needs to be fulfilled. We must lock in all these reforms consistent with the mandate, particularly given the recent signs of movement to less market-oriented approaches by some domestic law makers.
In market access, however, serious gaps remain. This includes areas where Cairns Group Members have articulated reforms – such as, but not limited to, sensitive products, the Article 5 Special Safeguard and tropical and alternative products – where much greater progress is required to address important development goals. Similar progress is required across other elements of the pillar, including developing country market access. Agreement on modalities can only be reached if we have certainty of outcomes in all markets.
Sensitive Products is an area of particular concern. Cairns Group Members have set out an approach that would provide for clarity of market access in tonnage terms. While we have engaged in discussion of alternative approaches, our serious concerns with partial designation remain. We could not agree to modalities that would leave uncertain the final level of MFN TRQ expansion, or allow the commercial value of outcomes to be diminished by the way access is scheduled – new access for each sensitive product must be reflected in a single quota only.
Our benchmark remains a substantial package of reforms across all pillars consistent with the mandate. An important remaining task is to secure new market access opportunities that are clear and substantial for our farmers. This will be central to the development dividend of this Round.