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Farmers support call to reinvigorate trade & reduce tariffs

26 October 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has backed the Prime Minister’s calls to reinvigorate the Doha trade negotiations, to avoid increasing protectionism and to encourage other countries to follow Australia’s lead in reducing tariff protections.

NFF President Jock Laurie says the Prime Minister’s speech, made to the CHOGM Business Forum Dinner overnight, reinforced the NFF’s position on free trade.

“Trade liberalisation is a major priority for the NFF and for more than 30 years now we’ve committed to looking at all options for driving this reform across the globe,” Mr Laurie said.

“The world’s farmers have always battled to get agriculture at the trade reform table and we’ll continue to ensure that it retains its place as a central pillar of any multilateral negotiation process.

“Clearly a new approach is needed to break the current Doha deadlock, but this doesn’t mean the agricultural industry will simple accept any alternative, especially if agriculture is left off the table because it’s seen as being ‘too hard.’

“This is particularly important for the Commonwealth countries whose economies are heavily dependent on agriculture – a sector that globally is plagued by many barriers that prevent our farmers getting a fair price for their produce.

“Agriculture has the highest trade distortions of any sector of merchandise trade, with average global tariffs more than three times greater for food and fibre products. At the same time, over $US1 billion per day of trade distorting domestic support, predominantly from developed countries such as the United States and members of the European Union, continues to push down world agricultural prices.

“The gains to the world’s farmers from free trade are too great to continue to ignore – or to wait for the current Doha framework to deliver.

“Therefore, we believe the Prime Minister is right to reinforce the key role that unilateral trade reform will need to play in generating the outcomes that the world’s farmers, not to mention the world’s consumers, need. This is particularly true as in the context of global food security concerns.

“Australian agriculture is a great example of how a sector can embark on a process of reform and come out the other side as being more robust and competitive, and better placed to respond to global market forces.

“As the Prime Minister highlighted, Australia has already embarked on a unilateral process of tariff reform and through this, tariffs on agricultural commodities are now almost non-existent. There are only gains to be made if the rest of the world follows suit, not just for our farmers, but for farmers the world over.

“We’re definitely not suggesting that the process of unilateral reform is an easy one – it is not – but Australian agriculture is living proof that it can be done, and with long-term benefits,” Mr Laurie said.

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