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
"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.
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
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