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Tue, May 06, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Food crisis could spur trade talks: Australia

AP , CANBERRA

Growing concerns about food security could spur renewed efforts to liberalize global trade, Australia’s trade minister says.

If the global community wants to help solve the food crisis, it must liberalize markets so that people can trade available surpluses more freely, Minister Simon Crean said on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian trade officials.

Crean’s remarks were made on Saturday and available on his official Web site yesterday.

“The food crisis is the big jolt to Doha at the moment,” he told reporters in Bali, Indonesia. “Getting an outcome in Doha is an absolute bedrock position for addressing the food crisis in the future.”

He said some countries think they can solve food shortages by restricting exports — erecting another trade barrier — which just adds weight to the need to conclude a successful Doha outcome.

The current world trade negotiations were launched in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, where the world’s richest countries agreed to liberalize trade in services, manufacturing and agriculture to create opportunities for developing countries and the poor. But progress has been hobbled by resistance to deep tariff cuts from developing countries such as Brazil and India, while the US and EU have been criticized for not going far enough to cut farm subsidies.

Australia and other farm exporting nations want a rapid phase-out of export subsidies and deep cuts to trade-distorting domestic support.

Crean also said negotiations between Australia and China for a bilateral trade agreement are back on track after talks in Beijing last month, with further talks scheduled for next month.

“There is a strong political commitment to try and conclude an ambitious, comprehensive, mutually beneficial free trade agreement between our two countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, trade ministers of the 10 member countries of ASEAN, plus Australia and New Zealand, have made a strong commitment to concluding a multilateral trade agreement at a meeting in Singapore in August.

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