DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND TRADE, Australia
The Senior Spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Mr Nick Warner, today announced South Africa's membership to the Cairns
"We congratulate South Africa on the changes it has made to bring
its domestic environment into line with Cairns Group objectives for international
agricultural trade. We look forward to welcoming South Africa formally at
the 12th Cairns Group Ministerial meeting in Sydney from 1-3 April this
year," Mr Warner said.
"South Africa is a major agricultural exporting country and its
participation in the Cairns Group will add to its diversity and strengthen
its capacity to work for a fairer international agricultural trading system.
"South Africa's membership underlines the continuing dynamism of
the group and its appeal to agricultural free traders in all regions. The
Cairns Group first expanded its membership in 1997, admitting Paraguay,
and we look forward to South Africa providing a model for other nations
of southern Africa," he said.
South Africa is the first African country to join the Cairns Group. The
leadership role that South Africa plays in southern Africa will strengthen
the capacity of the Cairns Group to explain and advance its objectives for
reform in international agricultural trade.
In making his announcement, Mr Warner also advised of Hungary's recent
decision to withdraw from the Cairns Group, having received agreement to
commence negotiations to accede to the European Union (EU), as one of six
"The Cairns Group understands the wider political and security reasons
for Hungary's desire to join the EU," Mr Warner said.
"Hungary has made significant strides in agricultural liberalisation
since the break-up of the former Eastern bloc and will now be in a position
to contribute to further liberalisation of the EU's common agricultural
policy. Significant reform of the EU's highly interventionist and trade-distorting
agricultural policies will be important to the continued efforts of the
Cairns Group to liberalise world trade in agriculture." he said.
The Cairns Group has a key role to play over the next two years to ensure
that agriculture negotiations are well prepared and launched by the end
of 1999. The April meeting in Sydney will be the first time Ministers have
met in Australia since their inaugural meeting in Cairns in 1986. It will
be a critical meeting for the group as it develops objectives for the next
round of multilateral negotiations on agriculture in 1999, and considers
strategies to advance our interests in the World Trade Organisation prior
to the commencement of the negotiations.
The Cairns Group was formed by Australia in 1986 and consists of 15 fair
trading agricultural producing countries -Argentina, Australia, Brazil,
Canada, Chile, Colombia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay,
Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay. These countries account
for around 20 per cent of world agricultural exports. Together they make
up a critical force for the reform of world agricultural trade.