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world trade « Previous | |Next »
September 20, 2006

I see that we are approaching the 20th anniversary of the Cairns Group ---the lobby group of the developing countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO) that was formed in 1986. They are currently in Cairns to discuss agricultural trade reform in the face of opposition to such reform by Japan, the Europeans and the Americans who continue to protect their farmers by resisting cuts to domestic farm subsidies and tariffs. The failure to reach an agreement on cutting protection on agriculture remains the sticking point in the Doha round of world trade negotiations.

It's ironic isn't it. Farm interests, accounting for less that 4% of the employment in developed countries, can effectively block deals to open new markets for services and manufactures which account for more than 90% of employment.

The context is the suspension of the Doha round of the WTO since July; multilateralism in world trade is on a backburner these days, and it is being fractured by bilateral free trade agreements; and Australian farmers having had European agricultural protection in their sights for over 20 years. Australia increasingly looks to be supporting the US in this WTO trade negoitations.

The Cairns Group looks weak and the gathering in Carins looks more like a celebration of past achievements. It's pivotal role seems to be in the past as many of the developing countries shift to manufacturing, and China and India resist agricultural trade reform to protect their farmers. Prospects for the Carins group finding a way to kickstart the Doha round of trade negotiations don't look good, given the US refusal to cut domestic payments to its farmers.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:54 AM | | Comments (0)