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WTO Must Deliver Trade Access for Farmers by July

4 May 2006

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Peter Corish has wrapped up his trade talks in Geneva where he has been advocating on behalf of Australian farmers for a commercially significant outcome from the Doha round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.

“As an Australian farmer and, indeed, as a Cairns Group member along with numerous other countries committed to trade liberalisation, the talks in Geneva over the past few days have been sobering,” Mr Corish lamented.

“No surprise, we have missed the 30 April deadline for agreement on agricultural and non-agricultural rules. This is a bitter blow to farmers around the world, let alone Australian farmers who are highly efficient and looking for opportunities to compete fairly on the world stage.

“We are getting sick and tired of missed deadline after missed deadline.”

Chairman of the WTO agriculture negotiations Crawford Falconer is now embarking on an intensive six-week series of the agricultural talks, which will be critical to resolving many outstanding agricultural issues. However, this process is very likely to leave many unanswered questions particularly on issues like the level of ambition for agricultural market access.

“Nothing worthwhile comes easy,” Mr Corish added. “We’re disappointed, but not defeated. We now turn our attention to impressing the absolute urgency that negotiators must remain focussed on delivering an acceptable agreement on agriculture by the end of July.

“It is time to get serious about delivering on the agreement made in Doha five years ago, with the most important unresolved issue being agricultural market access. The European Commission and others must come to the table, dragged kicking and screaming if necessary, on this issue sooner rather than later – and with a serious set of numbers relating to market access.

“It is totally unacceptable to leave market access sidelined, as it appears some WTO member countries would like, for the next Round. Farmers will not judge this Round by its processes or simply reaching a final agreement – we will judge it by how much new and improved trade it creates.

“It was pleasing to see Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade Mark Vaile in Geneva this week. Mr Vaile had many high-level meetings with senior ministerial colleagues, including from the United States and Brazil.

“Senior Ministerial engagement is going to be vital over the coming weeks and we will be working closely with the Minister and his negotiators to achieve an outcome that delivers for Australian farmers.”

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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