Australian grain growers stand to be big winners from the new round of World Trade Organisation negotiations launched last week, according to AWB Chairman Trevor Flugge.
The agreement struck by the 144 WTO member countries in Doha, Qatar, includes a focus on agriculture, and will put major trade distorting factors such as export subsidies and domestic support programs back on the WTO negotiating table.
AWB Chairman Trevor Flugge said the new round of discussions was the first step to phasing out the Government support programs in the US and EU that severely disadvantage Australian grain growers.
“For too long, Australian growers have had to operate in a grossly distorted international market without proper reward for their production efficiency,” said Flugge.
“I congratulate the Australian Government for its role in ensuring the inclusion of agriculture in the new round, which now means the Australian grain industry has more chance of attaining the level trade playing field we have long sought.”
Mr Flugge said more than $280 billion is spent annually on subsiding the agricultural sectors of OECD countries – to the detriment of fair global trade.
According to OECD figures, US wheat farmers receive, on average, US$228 per hectare in Government subsidies, while farmers in the European Union receive US$788/ha.
“While this round does not guarantee the removal of these high levels of Government support, it is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Mr Flugge.
Agricultural trade reform was first included on the multilateral negotiation agenda following the Uruguay WTO round during the 1990’s. However, Mr Flugge said these latest negotiations still had a long way to go to achieve the desired outcome for Australian farmers.
AWB Ltd has also welcomed the announcement this week of the acceptance of China and Taiwan as WTO members.
Speaking from the Asia-Pacific Round Table conference in Beijing, Mr Flugge said China’s accession meant they would now be compelled by the terms of WTO agreements, and open the doors of its grain industry to international trade.
“As a rapidly industrialising nation, with a huge population, China opening its doors to trade represents a great opportunity for Australian grain growers,” said Mr Flugge.