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WTO Takes a Hit as Europe Falters and the US Digs In

25 July 2006

All Australian agricultural industries are extremely disappointed at the suspension of the latest round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, having so far failed to fulfil the promise of international trade reform to deliver improved access for our exporting farmers to overseas markets.

“This is a huge lost opportunity for Australian farmers,” NFF Trade Committee Chair Ian Feldtmann said today. “The Doha Round could have, and should have, eliminated agricultural export subsidies forever by significantly reducing trade distorting agricultural supports and, thereby, achieving improvements in market access for our farm goods.

“This would have been worth around $1.5 billion-a-year to the incomes of Australian farmers.

“It’s a case of so close and yet so far. To bridge the gap on agricultural market access, the European Union (EU) needed to marginally improve its market access offer, which, in turn, would have allowed the US to improve its domestic support offer. However, in the end, EU leaders lacked the political stomach to make the necessary minor concessions.”

While Australian farmers will not see the market access expansion they hoped for any time soon, the gains already made through the WTO and other trade negotiations continue to reap rewards, while new avenues to secure improved market access will be explored.

“Australian farmers aren’t any worse off as a result of these negotiations breaking down,” Mr Feldtmann added. “There is no negative cost to this. We just aren’t going to realise new trade opportunities in the short-term.

“NFF remains committed to pursuing global trade reform through the WTO. It remains the main game, providing the best forum to negotiate substantial gains for farmers.

“But, of course, we will also continue to look at other types of trade agreements to deliver the market access that Australian farm families need to grow their farm businesses into the future.

“There are lots of reasons these negotiations have failed, but the fact that the EU and some other countries have been unwilling to deal with agricultural market access to secure genuine increases in trade flows for farm goods remains the single biggest stumbling block.

“NFF thanks Trade Minister The Hon. Mark Vaile MP and his officials for their ongoing leadership. A ‘Doha-lite’ deal was never going to work and we appreciate the Minister remaining steadfastly focused on real reform when it could have been easy to accept a face-saving and, ultimately, defeating compromise deal.”

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan, NFF Public Affairs, (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250 email:

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