National Farmers' Federation

NFF leads fight for fairer trade rules

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is playing the pivotal role of co-ordinating a key meeting of international farm groups in Indonesia today – ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of Trade Ministers – in a bid to kick-start trade reform in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Co-hosting the farm leaders with Indonesia, the meeting is of pro-reform countries under the Cairns Group pact, with meeting Chair and NFF President David Crombie describing the fact that the United States, the European Union, Japan, China and India coming as guests “is a unique opportunity to thrash out differences and, perhaps, find enough common ground to finally get serious trade reform up-and-running”.
“Current barriers and subsidies shut Australian farmers out of markets and limit business growth. For 20 years Cairns Group farmers have led the battle against these protectionist measures. We are still fighting today and we have made tangible gains, but much more needs to be done. The current financial crisis brings these issues home – it is no coincidence that the economies that are faring the worst in the crisis are those with the highest barriers.
“Importantly, we’re looking for some insight into where the United States is headed, especially with its Trade Review due to be released soon. The US has a pivotal role as the catalyst for a new global trade agreement. Other countries, which until now have been recalcitrant and hidden behind nationalistic fervour, need to rethink their position.
“Obviously, the US backslide into a protectionist stance by re-introducing subsidies on dairy products was a specific response to the EU’s dairy subsidy announcement. Both countries actions are wrong. It illustrates that tit-for-tat trade wars based on barriers, tariffs and subsidies are futile and, in fact, counter-productive. To say our dairy producers are less than impressed is the understatement of the century.
“The Cairns Group Farm Leaders’ Forum is a group of 19 countries dedicated to supporting the Cairns Group and pushing for multilateral trade reform. The world has been close on several occasions to getting a worthwhile, workable trade environment up – based on eliminating trade barriers, facilitating greater market access and allowing the market to flow and allocate resources to their most efficient outputs.
“However, on each occasion some political leaders globally simply haven’t had the stomach to do what they all know is necessary. They need to steel up and deliver. Farmers are supporting Cairns Group Ministers to deliver this message loud and clear.”

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