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NFF leads fresh pitch for major trade reform

The National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Officer, Tony Mahar is joining with other major exporting nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada and New Zealand today to lead a fresh pitch for major agricultural trade reform during a meeting of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders in Geneva.

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders - a global coalition of farm organisations from the 19 Cairns Group countries which was established in 1998 - are meeting as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Cairns Group and as part of a series of meetings in preparation for the next WTO Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires in 2017.

“Reform of agricultural trade subsidies is as urgent and crucial today as it was when the Cairns Group was first established 30 years ago,” Mr Mahar said.

“Australian farmers receive just 1.3% of farm income from subsidies. The OECD average is 17%. This is unsustainable and we simply cannot give up on seeking to get a more level playing field for Australian farmers.

“While much has been achieved through bilateral and regional free trade agreements in recent years, the elimination of export subsidies at the last WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi was a positive step forward. There is still however a significant task ahead to create a truly fair and equitable trading environment for Australian farmers and agricultural exporters like Australia to truly prosper.

“Today’s meeting of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, which the NFF has chaired since its inception, will continue to call for a coordinated and comprehensive approach for the removal of trade and production distorting domestic support measures within a mandated timeframe.

Our message to Trade Ministers and world leaders particularly in the current geo-political climate is loud and clear – do not retreat to the comfort of protectionism, rather have a real crack and back serious reforms to trade rules that stimulate a vibrant sustainable agriculture sector.
Tony Mahar, CEO, National Farmers' Federation

Mr Mahar also announced today the launch of a new Cairns Group Farm Leaders website to engage a wider audience on its trade reform message.

“The new website http://www.cairnsgroupfarmers.org/ showcases the work being done by Cairns Group peak farming organisations to further our common interests.

“From an Australian perspective, it is vital that the Group clearly engages with and communicates its expectations for trade reform to a wide audience, including what the benefits are to the farm sector.

“We have no illusions that the next round of WTO negotiations for agriculture will be a walk in the park but we see an ongoing responsibility and opportunity to better explain the significant outcomes that could be achieved for rural communities and farm businesses from substantial trade reform.

“In helping us deliver that message, I wish to particularly thank the Minister for Trade, the Hon Steve Ciobo MP and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their support.  The NFF recognises and values the partnership with Government to address agricultural trade issues.”

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