• Lockwood Smith

Trade Minister Lockwood Smith departs New Zealand tomorrow to attend a Ministerial level meeting of the Cairns Group in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Cairns Group, which consists of fifteen of the world's major agricultural producers, is committed to promoting the liberalisation of trade in agriculture. The membership includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.

"The Cairns group is an important part of New Zealand's strategy to reduce and remove global barriers to trade," said Dr Smith.

"Currently, our farmers face significant trade restrictions in key markets, and must compete against heavily subsidised products in global markets.

"The Cairns Group is committed to placing trade in agriculture on the same footing as trade in other goods, where export subsidies and other trade distorting practices are banned under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

"The major focus of this weekend's meeting in Buenos Aires will be the further development of the Cairns Group's strategy for the Third WTO Ministerial in Seattle, which is widely expected to launch the next round of global trade negotiations. It's important that we approach Seattle with common objectives, and that we have a clear strategy to build greater support for trade liberalisation from other WTO members.

"The meeting will also be attended by US Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, which provides an excellent opportunity for the Cairns Group and the US to align objectives in the lead-up to the Seattle Ministerial," Dr Smith said.

Whilst in Buenos Aires, Dr Smith will also sign an Investment Protection & Promotion Agreement (IPPA) with Argentina. The agreement provides guidelines for the fair treatment of investments and clear rules regarding repatriation of profits and procedures for settlement of disputes.

Dr Smith will be joined by New Zealand's Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, Malcolm Bailey, and returns to New Zealand on Tuesday, 31 August 1999.