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Global coalition of farm organisations reaffirm commitment to 'rules-based' trading system

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders presented a statement to Ministers of Cairns Group countries urging them to resist protectionism and ambitiously pursue meaningful agricultural trade liberalisation.

On Saturday 9 December in Buenos Aires, Argentina National Farmers' Federation President Ms Fiona Simson joined with the President of Sociedad Rural Argentina, Mr Daniel Pelegrina, and counterparts from 14 farm representative organisations across 10 countries to make a strong statement in support of a global rules based trading system. 

Ms Fiona Simson, President of the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is Chair of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, a grouping of agricultural exporting countries.

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders outlined the following priorities:

  • Support for a rules-based global trading system.
  • Full transparency, full participation of all World Trade Organisation (WTO) members in the WTO dispute settlement process and acceptance of decisions.
  • A cap on all forms of trade-distorting domestic support, that leads to genuine reductions over time.
  • A commitment to improving market access by lowering bound and applied tariffs and removing tariff rate quotas.
  • A pathway to 'science-based' regulatory convergence to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade in a way that leads to meaningful reductions in compliance costs across global agricultural supply chains.

"The WTO is under the greatest threat since any time throughout it's history," Ms Simson said.

"Today we urged Cairns Group Ministers to provide strong support for the WTO as an institution and its processes.

"The WTO and the pursuit of free and fair trade is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals around poverty reduction and food security."

Free and open trade in agricultural products, underpinned by a strong and vibrant WTO, is crucial to reducing poverty and ensuring global food security.
Fiona Simson, President of the National Farmers' Federation and Chair of the Cairns Group Farm Leaders

Mr Pelegrina said for too long, some countries had avoided making hard decisions.

"The result is that agricultural trade remains highly distorted.

"Many people have said that the prospects for meaningful reform in the WTO are lower than ever.

"We, at the Cairns Group Farm Leaders, remain optimistic and we demand ambition from our Governments.

"We have an opportunity here and we must not let this slip through our fingers. The purveyors of protectionism sell false hope and flawed solutions."

Mr Ron Bonnett, President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, emphasised the importance of playing by the rules and accepting decisions of the independent referee.

"To play any game you need a referee.

"A referee that is empowered by clear rules and is independent of all players.

"In international trade, that referee is the WTO.

"No game can function if the players don't accept the rules and don't accept the referee's decisions.

"Just as important is actually having referees. WTO members need to support it's dispute resolution process."

Ms Simson said the message from the Cairns Group Farm Leaders was clear.

"Free and open trade in agricultural products, underpinned by a strong and vibrant WTO, is crucial to reducing poverty and ensuring global food security.

"For too long, agriculture has been put on the back burner.

"This can't continue."

National Farmers' Federation President Fiona Simson (second left) and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo (third from right) at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires.
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