Cairns Group steps up reform in rules of agricultural trade in WTO hinh anh 1The virtual informal ministerial-level meeting of 19 agricultural exporting countries in Cairns Group (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Ministers of 19 agricultural exporting countries in Cairns Group, including Vietnam, have recently issued a joint statement to step up reform in rules of agricultural trade within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The statement was issued following an informal ministerial-level meeting which was held virtually under the chair of Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan.

Ambassador Le Thi Tuyet Mai, head of the Vietnam Mission to the United Nations, WTO and international organisations in Geneva attended the event.

In the statement, ministers underlined that it is essential for the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) to deliver an ambitious, concrete and equitable outcome in agricultural trade.

Reform of agricultural trade rules is long overdue. Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture mandated negotiations for the continuation of the multilateral reform process in agriculture. Agriculture remains the most protected and distorted sector globally. Reducing barriers to trade and market distortions is a critical pathway to enable countries to raise incomes and standards of living, provide employment and ensure sustainable development. In addition, rising global food insecurity, climate change and sustainable development challenges underline the urgency for such reforms.

According to the statement, taking meaningful steps towards reform at MC12 to make agricultural trade more predictable, open, fair and market oriented would also form part of an essential response of the multilateral trading system to the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and help advance global food security.

Cairns Group ministers underlined the role of agricultural trade to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, SDG 1 “End poverty in all its forms” and SDG 2 “Zero Hunger”. They reaffirmed that development lies at the heart of the multilateral trading system and agricultural trade reforms must continue to support the economic development needs of WTO developing members.

The reform process must deliver substantial progressive reductions in support and protection, and not result in the maintenance of the status quo or a reversal of Uruguay Round commitments.

Ministers called for a Ministerial Decision at MC12 that addresses agricultural trade- and production-distorting domestic support. This Ministerial Decision must be of sufficient ambition and specificity to enable meaningful reform of trade- and production-distorting domestic support entitlements. To this end, ministers of the Cairns Group underscored that the Framework for Negotiations on Domestic Support should be the basis for this Decision.

The Cairns Group reiterated its commitment to work with other WTO members and groups in a collaborative and constructive effort to secure a meaningful and ambitious outcome in agriculture at MC12, in line with the reform mandate set in Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture.

MC12 will be the WTO’s first Ministerial Meeting in four years and the first since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an important opportunity to deliver meaningful agricultural trade reform, they said.

Cairns Group accounts for about 25 percent of farm produce export globally. Ukraine has joined the group as an observer since 2019 and Australia served as a coordinator.

Vietnam became an official member of the group at the 19th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia in 2013./.