Washington -- The United States has reached
a "very satisfying conclusion" to its March 31
meetings with a global coalition of 17 agricultural exporting
nations, says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.
In a statement released that day, Johanns
said the meetings, held in Cartagena, Colombia, gave the
United States an opportunity to make progress in advancing
global free trade.
Dohanns said he and other officials from
his department talked with the coalition -- known as the
Cairns Group -- about ways to work together "in making
progress in the Doha Development Agenda of the World Trade
Organization." That agenda is aimed at lowering tariffs
and nontariff barriers in order to increase international
The Cairns Group, with 10 of its members
from the Americas, held its 27th ministerial meeting March
30-April 1 in Cartagena on such major trade issues as the
proposed U.S. Free Trade Agreement with Central America
and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) and the importance
of agreeing on methods for liberalizing trade.
The objectives of the United States and
Cairns Group on advancing free trade have often coincided,
Johanns indicated. He added that while in Cartagena, U.S.
officials discussed with their Colombian hosts another proposed
trade pact called the Andean Free Trade Agreement. The United
States concluded the eighth round of talks with Colombia,
Ecuador, and Peru in March on creating that Andean pact.
Johanns said two-way agricultural trade
between the three Andean countries and the United States
currently tops $3 billion a year. He added that "our
Andean friends rightly view a cutting-edge [free-trade agreement
with the United States] as a key component in their economic
growth and reform plans."
The United States, he said, sees the Andean
agreement as a "great way to open markets and opportunities
in support of our broader goals in our hemisphere."
The Cairns Group, named for the city in
Australia where it was formed in 1986, has launched a global
campaign for free trade in agriculture in an effort to ensure
that the current round of world trade talks delivers cuts
in agricultural subsidies and increases in market access.
The Cairns Group held its previous ministerial
meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, in February 2004. Members
of the group say that, by acting collectively, they have
had more influence on agriculture negotiations than any
individual nation could achieve independently. The Cairns
Group says global trade liberalization must continue to
support the economic needs of nations in the developing
The 10 nations in the Americas that belong
to the Cairns Group are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada,
Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Other members are Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand,
the Philippines, South Africa and Thailand.
Washington File Staff Writer
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
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