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Minister Sutton speaks to WTO Session

The Doha Round negotiations will fail if there is no real progress on agriculture, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton told the plenary session of the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Cancún, Mexico, that progress on agriculture could unblock the negotiations of the Doha Development Round.

Agriculture was the primary industry of most developing countries, which wanted to see progress on agricultural negotiations before committing to negotiations in any other sector in the round.

"Without real progress on agriculture, the round must fail."

Mr Sutton said wealthy countries of the OECD which subsidised and protected their farmers at the same time as they benefited from increasingly free trade in industrial goods and services must show the way.

"As an essential first step, the European Union, the United States and any others who subsidise exports should take the opportunity of Cancun to agree unequivocally that one outcome of the Doha round shall be the phase out of all export subsidies.

"We can negotiate next year the when and the how."

Mr Sutton said that if developed countries moved to eliminate export subsidies and moves were made to improve market access and lower domestic support, then momentum would be generated, not just in agriculture itself, but across the whole agenda of the multilateral negotiations.

"I believe that if we make the right moves in key areas, we will provide for developing countries the biggest dividend of all from this negotiation. "

Mr Sutton said developing countries had made it clear at Cancún already that they wanted markets opened and to be free from the impact of other countries' subsidies, so their citizens could have jobs and trade their way to prosperity, rather than depend on aid payments that kept them in subsistence poverty.

He said it was ironic that developed nations spent more on support for their own farmers than they did on international aid.

Mr Sutton said it was not clear whether some developed countries clearly understood the strength of feeling amongst developing nations at Cancún.

He said Cairns Group and G21 members would not tolerate a failure to address issues crucial to them - agriculture, and export subsidies in particular.

"Agriculture negotiations facilitator George Yeo needs to take that feeling on board right now."

Mr Sutton said both Mexican president Vicente Fox, who opened the meeting, and United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan in a prepared statement for the opening made it crystal clear that agriculture was a central issue for the conference.

"It must not be sidelined or drafted over by cute diplomatic ambiguities."

Mr Sutton also told the WTO plenary session that the objective in the Doha Round was to make a real contribution to bettering the living conditions of all our communities.

"Our job here is to take the decisions that can make a contribution to development in the trade sphere."

"But we in New Zealand are committed to properly integrating our trade policy with our other governmental policies such as those in environment, labour and development.  That reflects our view that economic and social development can and should go hand in hand."

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