Cairns Group ag ministers plan Saskatoon summit

Ag ministers from the Cairns Group, a clutch of 19 agricultural exporting countries including Canada, plan to meet in Saskatoon in September to talk trade.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on Friday announced the 36th Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting will be held Sept. 7-9 in Saskatoon, co-chaired by Canada and Australia.

The meeting is expected to focus on World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on agriculture and other agricultural trade-related issues, the government said.

“Hosting the Cairns Group gives Canada an excellent opportunity to promote our ambitious and balanced agenda to strengthen international agricultural trade rules,” Ritz said in a release.

Over 150 participants from more than 25 countries are expected to gather in Saskatchewan’s largest city, the government said, noting “special guests from a number of other important trading partners” outside the Cairns Group will also be invited to attend.

Farm leaders from the Cairns Group member countries are also booked to attend a meeting hosted by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, to be co-chaired by the Australian National Farmers’ Federation.

“Voice”

Along with Canada and Australia, the Cairns countries include New Zealand, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Peru, Colombia, Thailand, Bolivia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The group bills itself as “an influential voice in the agricultural reform debate” and as playing a “key role in pressing the WTO membership to meet in full the far-reaching mandate set in Doha.”

The group, formed in 1986, urges a solid conclusion to the Doha Development Round of WTO trade negotiations launched in 2001, describing the Doha agenda as “a key to stability” that would help eliminate ag export subsidies, cut trade-distorting subsidies and improve market access through tariff cuts.

The group has previously said it “recognizes the need to allow longer time frames and flexibility for developing countries to implement reform.”

The Cairns Group’s last ministerial-level meeting was held at Punta del Este in southern Uruguay in April 2010.

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