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The Cairns Group

Cairns, Australia


Ministers agreed that there was an urgent need to reform and liberalise agricultural trade so as to improve the economic prospects of all participating countries.

Ministers noted that there was growing recognition of the agricultural trade crisis and its crippling effects on the economies of agricultural exporters, notably debtor nations, whose ability to service their debt was being continuously eroded. This recognition was reflected in the undertakings
given at the Tokyo Summit of seven industrialised countries in May 1986 to work towards a resolution of the problems created in world agricultural markets by their inappropriate domestic policies.

Ministers welcomed the agreement in the Tokyo Communique on the importance of adjustment policies. They expressed the firm view that this could be achieved in agriculture only by a program of market liberalisation including a marked reduction in the use of agricultural subsidies.

Ministers emphasised the importance of the MTN negotiations addressing agricultural trade issues as a high priority. In this context they undertook to seek the removal of market access barriers, substantial reductions of agricultural subsidies and the elimination, within an agreed period, of subsidies affecting agricultural trade.

Ministers expressed the view that the preparations made in Geneva to develop a draft ministerial declaration to launch a new round of negotiations had achieved progress in several areas and reflected many of the concerns which needed to be addressed. Deficiencies remain, however, including the inadequate treatment of agricultural subsidies and the lack of a specific reference to domestic agricultural adjustment policies.

Ministers noted that, at Punta del Este, the draft declaration would be subject to discussion and decision at ministerial level for the first time. In that context they endorsed the need for a strong commitment to give a high priority to resolving the longstanding issues in agriculture and tropical products.

Ministers seriously questioned the value of a new round which failed to solve the longstanding problems in agricultural trade.

Ministers decided that they would meet in Punta del Este prior to the GATT Ministerial Meeting to ensure that their concerns regarding the negotiating objectives on agriculture are adequately met. This would be done by their seeking improvements in the declaration adopted so that there would be sufficient commitment to agricultural trade reform and liberalisation.

Ministers also considered that the commitments on standstill and rollback would be a litmus test of the good faith of all countries in joining the negotiations. They expressed the view that the standstill and rollback commitments should specifically cover all areas of trade in goods, including agriculture, and that appropriate multilateral surveillance should be implemented to that end.

Ministers agreed that they would meet regularly following the launch of the negotiations to oversee the progress of negotiations and to ensure that the problems of world agricultural trade remain high on the agenda for international action.

In view of the time that would be taken for the MTN process to achieve substantial results, ministers agreed that additional efforts were needed. These included pressure to secure early changes in current domestic farm support policies of those countries whose policies adversely affect international trade in agricultural products. Bilateral, regional and joint co-operative efforts would be considered.

Ministers agreed that the fair trading nations should expand their contact with developing country economic and regional groups, especially those with a focus on agricultural issues.

Ministers also agreed that while the GATT negotiations were underway, the causes of and solutions to the current crisis in agricultural trade should be at the forefront of consideration in all relevant international fora such as the IMF, World Bank, OECD, FAO, UNCTAD and UNGA.

Ministers were convinced that such wide-ranging efforts were essential in view of the widespread misery and destruction being caused to efficient farmers around the world.

Ministers welcomed the presence at the conference of the observers from the United States, Japan and the European Community, in view of their economic importance and shared responsibility for the reform of the international trade system.

In particular they welcomed the statement by the observer from the United States that the United States' objectives in the negotiations will include "the phase out of all export subsidies affecting trade in agriculture and of all other measures that restrict access and distopt trade in agricultural products".

Ministers expressed their intention to continue the dialogue on these issues during the course of the negotiations.

Ministers expressed their appreciation for the contributions of farm industry representatives from Argentina, Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the formulation of strategies for agricultural trade reform. They agreed with the industry representatives that these exchanges should be continued and expanded as part of the future consultations among the fair trading nations.

Ministers congratulated the Government of Australia for its initiative in convening this meeting. They expressed their gratitude for the warm hospitality extended to them.

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