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Agriculture remains key priority for Cairns Group

4 December 2013

Ensuring agriculture remains the key priority in trade is the focus for the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, following a meeting in Indonesia this week.

The meeting, held in parallel with the 9th World Trade Organisation Ministerial meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, was chaired by National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Brent Finlay.

Mr Finlay said despite sensitivities surrounding agricultural trade liberalisation, agriculture must remain a central focus of all trade negotiations.

“Trade is critically important to Australian farmers, and indeed, all within the Cairns Group. Ensuring agriculture is a central pillar of all trade negotiations is our key focus, and this is what we have communicated back to the Cairns Group of Countries, via its co-chair, Australian Minister Robb and Indonesian Trade Minister Gita,” Mr Finlay said.

“Importantly, we continue to support the trade reform objectives of the Doha Round, especially the need for improved market access and a transparent and rules-based trading system.

“And we welcome the strong support we have received from Minister Robb in progressing the objectives of the Australian farm sector. His understanding of our concerns, and his resolve to ensure progress was recognised by all in attendance – including representatives of the Australian pork, grains, sugar, diary, red meat and rice sectors,” Mr Finlay said.

Speaking following the completion of the talks, Mr Finlay said farmers appreciate the challenges facing the multilateral trade agenda and how this has seen many countries shift attention to bilateral and regional trade arrangements.

“We need to be clear that moves towards smaller trade agreements is not a rejection of the principles behind the Doha negotiation. Rather, the Doha goals remain valid and must continue to be pursued. These additional trade reforms must be viewed – along with the work of the World Trade Organisation - as critical moves to progress trade liberalisation,” Mr Finlay said.

“The NFF will continue to work with like-minded countries to progress trade in agriculture, particularly in light of the challenges the World Trade Organisation continues to face,” Mr Finlay said.

Following the completion of the WTO Ministerial Council this week, Mr Finlay will then lead a delegation of Australian commodity representatives to Singapore for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Finalising the TPP remains one of the key priorities for Australian agriculture, and the farm sector has been very clear is stressing that an agreement that does not provide commercial outcomes for agricultural commodities (sugar in the US, for example) cannot, and will not, be supported.

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