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Farmers welcome Minister’s call: ‘ag must be on the table’

19 December 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has acknowledged the strong statements made by the Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson, that “agriculture must be on the table” under any new World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiating framework.

NFF President Jock Laurie said the comments, made by the Minister during the gathering of WTO Trade Ministers in Geneva this week, is confirmation that Australia will not budge on ensuring agriculture is part of any attempt to break the deadlock in the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

“The NFF has long said that we are open to any new process that aims to improve access to key export markets for Australian farmers, ensuring that we can keep pace with our international competitors,” Mr Laurie said.

“We have voiced our concern that any new multilateral trade negotiation approach comes with risks, yet we know that now is not the time to close the book on alternatives.

“The Minister’s statement gives us renewed confidence that agriculture will remain as part of the negotiations as the WTO explores different options to try and break the stalemate.

“Agriculture remains the most distorted sector of international merchandise trade, with tariff barriers faced by our sector more than three times greater than any other industry.

“This situation must change if Australian farmers are to fully capitalise on the vast opportunities that emerge as the world demand for food and fibre increases along with the population,” Mr Laurie said.

The NFF has also welcomed the pledge of 49 of the WTO nations to resist the temptation of enacting new protectionist measures during a period of increasing global economic turmoil.

“Australian farmers know only too well how problems faced in the global economy can lead to misguided trade policies that depress world prices for agricultural produce. The imposition of export subsidies by both the EU and the USA in the wake of the 2009 global financial crisis is a case in point of how important it is to ensure trade barriers are not introduced or increased during hard economic times,” Mr Laurie said.

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