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The Cairns Group

15th Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting, Manila, Phillipines


The fourteen members of the Cairns Group had their fifteenth Ministerial Meeting in Manila, the Philippines, on 26-27 May to review achievements since the previous Ministerial meeting in Uruguay and to plan activities for the next twelve months. Observer delegations from both South Africa and Paraguay attended the meeting.

Cairns Ministers also welcomed the participation in the meeting of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Mr Renato Ruggiero.

Cairns Group ministers reiterated their determination to continue their work to achieve a global system of agricultural trade free of distortions and consistent with market principles. Cairns Ministers noted that the Uruguay Round outcome on agriculture was a significant first step towards this objective, but that Cairns Group members would take every opportunity to press for further trade liberalisation in agriculture.

Cairn Ministers commended the cooperation that had taken place in Geneva on issues of common concern since the last Ministerial meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay in May 1994. Much attention had been given to developing procedures for the monitoring and implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture. Cairns representatives in Geneva also cooperated closely in important multilateral negotiations concerned with agriculture, such as the accession of new member countries to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and jointly studied a number of specific problems identified at the Montevideo meeting. They had also carried out important work in developing principles on sustainable agriculture for the third session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York in April 1995.

In Washington, Tokyo and Brussels, Cairns countries had also initiated arrangements during 1994 to maintain contact on matters of common concern. This had proven especially useful in Washington in relation to monitoring developments relevant to the new United States Farm Bill due to be dealt with by the United States Congress later in 1995.

Cairns Ministers noted with satisfaction arrangements worked out in Geneva since the last Ministerial meeting in Uruguay for terms of reference for the WTO Committee on Agriculture, as well as setting up appropriate working procedures including notification procedures for both the Committees on Agriculture and on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

Cairns Ministers stressed the importance they placed on the role of the Committee on Agriculture in ensuring that Uruguay Round outcomes on agriculture are fully implemented and respected. Ministers noted that this would require closer cooperation between Cairns Group countries on these issues in Geneva over the coming 12 months. Cairns Ministers said this was of particular importance with regard to: the full implementation of market access commitments, including ensuring that administrative procedures and the Special Safeguard do not operate in ways which undermine access commitments; domestic support commitments being strictly adhered to and not being circumvented by attempts to exclude production and trade distorting policies from annual reduction commitments; and the full implementation of export subsidy reduction commitments in strict accordance with the Uruguay Round Agreement, whilst preventing circumvention by the use of practices not specifically addressed in the Agreement.

Cairns Ministers also stressed the importance they attach to the role of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures in ensuring that the SPS Agreement in the Uruguay Round is similarly implemented in strict accordance with all the provisions and principles laid down in it. In this regard, Ministers noted the key role which needed to be played by the international standards-setting bodies.

Cairns Group Ministers called upon the major agricultural producing and importing countries to ensure that changes to domestic programmes introduced subsequent to the conclusion of the Uruguay Round negotiations are fully consistent with the commitments and with the reform direction charted in the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture, namely away from production and trade distorting forms of support towards more decoupled forms of support, and the further dismantling of export subsidy practices. Cairns Group Ministers noted that any temptation to circumvent disciplines would be against the spirit and letter of the Uruguay Round Agreement.

Cairns Ministers will press for the continuation of agriculture policy liberalisation through accession and other important negotiations in the WTO context and through the review mechanisms provided in WTO agreements, in particular the Trade Policy Review process. Cairns Ministers also stressed the importance of encompassing genuine trade liberalisation on agriculture in any future regional trade liberalisation arrangements.

Cairns Ministers recognised the contribution that further liberalisation of agriculture can make on sound environment policies.

Looking ahead to the further liberalisation of trade in agriculture on a fully multilateral basis, Cairns Ministers noted the built-in agenda in the Marrakesh protocol for future negotiations on further liberalising agricultural trade. Cairns Ministers expressed their determination to begin negotiations again as soon as possible. They also expressed their support for any broadly based agreement to accelerate Uruguay Round outcomes on agriculture. Ministers noted that the first WTO Biennial Ministerial meeting would take place in Singapore in the final weeks of 1996 and that this would provide the first opportunity to review the future trade negotiating agenda.

Against this background Cairns Ministers committed themselves to consider over the next twelve months how the Uruguay Round outcome on agriculture might best be built upon later through further negotiations on the reduction of support and liberalisation of trade policies. Ministers undertook to place this issue on their agenda for further development and consideration of a set of future negotiating goals at their next meeting.

Finally, Ministers stressed that in the development of any future broadly based multilateral agenda for further trade negotiations, including acceleration of Uruguay Round outcomes, agriculture must be an integral part of the negotiations.

Ministers also noted their agreement to meet in Colombia in the first half of 1996.

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