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WTO Trade Negotiations Committee

Open Letter from Cairns Group Ambassadors

Sir, The World Trade Organisation meeting starting in Hong Kong on December 13 presents a critical test for the high ideals set at the start of the Doha negotiations in 2001.

While we may not get as far as originally hoped in Hong Kong, we must make progress on agricultural market access. This will allow us to secure and deepen reductions in domestic support by the US and facilitate movement by others.

Making progress on agriculture will unblock other areas of the negotiations and it is the area where the biggest gains will come for developing countries. For these reasons we have been pleased to hear signals that the European Union may be " in a position to engage further on agriculture at Hong Kong".

While we are willing to recalibrate expectations for what we agree in Hong Kong, there can be no recalibration of the Doha mandate itself. Agriculture is the driver of this Round. Any lower result for agriculture would be a bad result for economic growth and development.

The Cairns Group has already laid out its views on what is required to address the existing distortions in market access. On tariff cuts the proposal from the European Union falls well short of what is required and needs more than cosmetic change to meet the Doha mandate's "substantial improvements in market access".

We must ensure also that the exemptions from the full tariff cuts for "sensitive products" do not undermine meaningful liberalisation in line with the mandate. There needs to be an expansion of most favoured nation access that goes beyond the modest results of the Uruguay Round.

Our approach for increasing tariff rate quota access based on domestic consumption would help deliver such an outcome. In contrast, the EU is proposing an approach that would see little or even no new access. Again, cosmetic changes will not suffice.

Hong Kong will reveal to the global community whether there is sufficient political will to tackle the difficult decisions to conclude the Round. We sincerely hope that the necessary political will comes in strong measure and does not arrive too late.

Cairns Group Ambassadors,

Geneva, Switzerland

Members of the Group are: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay

Last Updated: 24 February 2016

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