Office of the United States Trade Representative


USTR Zoellick to Attend Cairns Group Agriculture Trade Meeting in Costa Rica

WASHINGTON - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick will travel to San Jose, Costa
Rica for meetings February 23-24 with ministers from the Cairns Group of agriculture exporting countries to discuss liberalizing trade in agriculture within ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) trade negotiations.

"Agriculture has always been the key to the Doha Development Agenda, and the United States has offered bold proposals to eliminate export subsidies, reduce substantially domestic subsidies and slash agricultural tariffs. The strategic consultations I had with colleagues around the world during my travel over the last two weeks provided encouraging signs that 2004 need not be a lost year for the Doha negotiations," Zoellick said. "The developing world expects, and the United States agrees, that it is absolutely essential that we agree to set a firm date for the elimination of the most egregious form of trade distorting support, export subsidies."

"In addition to eliminating export subsidies, we will also need progress in the other two agricultural pillars. This includes substantial reduction and harmonization of trade distorting domestic support, and the cutting of market access barriers, including access to developed and developing markets," Zoellick added. "The Cairns Group is an important coalition within the WTO, and I look forward to discussing with them ideas about how we move Doha forward."

In 2002, the United States became the first WTO member to put forward a comprehensive agricultural trade reform proposal, calling for elimination of export subsidies, cuts of $100 billion in annual allowed global trade-distorting domestic subsidies, and lowering average allowed global tariffs from 62 percent to 15 percent. Zoellick will be joined at the Cairns meeting by U.S. Chief Agriculture Negotiator, Ambassador Allen F. Johnson.

In his January 11 letter to the 146 WTO members, Zoellick addressed the importance of agriculture to advance the Doha Development Agenda. In addition, Members should agree to substantially decrease and harmonize levels of trade-distorting domestic support, and seek a substantial increase in real market access opportunities both in developed and major developing economies.

The letter notes that the U.S. stands by its 2002 proposal to set a goal of total elimination of trade-distorting subsidies and barriers to market access. The letter also suggests that domestic supports, export subsidies, and tariffs for cotton (including cotton textiles) be cut substantially as part of a comprehensive agreement.


Following upon the January letter, Zoellick conducted an around the world trip February 11 - 20, visiting 9 cities for strategic consultations. These cities were Tokyo (Japan); Beijing (China); Singapore, Islamabad (Pakistan); New Delhi (India); Cape Town (South Africa); Mombasa (Kenya); Geneva (WTO headquarters) and Paris (meetings with EU Trade Commissioner Lamy).

The Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries are holding their twenty-sixth ministerial meeting February 23- 25. The United States and other invited guests will have the opportunity to share views as WTO agriculture exporting negotiations. The United States has submitted a comprehensive, balanced, and equitable approach for multilateral trade reform. While it differs in some respects with positions the Cairns Group has taken, both approaches call for substantial liberalization of world agricultural trade, by reducing and eventually eliminating the allowed levels of export subsidies, tariffs, and trade-distorting domestic support.

The Cairns Group member countries are: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Uruguay. The United States and other countries attend the Cairns Group meetings as special guests. Zoellick attended the last two Cairns Group meetings, in Bolivia in October 2002, and Uruguay in August 2001.


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