Free trade crucial during COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders, which the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is a member and secretariat of, has urged world governments to ensure the free, open and rules-based international trading system is not compromised in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, representing Australia, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand and Uruguay, has declared its support of a joint statement issued by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has called on governments to minimise the impact of COVID-19 related border restrictions on trade in food.

“It is critical that during the COVID-19 pandemic, governments recognise the importance of free trade to global food security,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“Not only is it important to maintain the free flows of agricultural produce between nations where such freedoms already exist – it is also important that nations further liberalise trade where such freedoms are absent.

“By taking concrete actions on reducing trade distorting measures such as subsidies, tariffs, non-tariff measures and export restrictions, nations can bolster global food security.

“We have worked hard over the past several decades to reduce barriers to trade in food and fibre and this global crisis has demonstrated the need to continue reducing these barriers.”

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders has encouraged nations to resist pressure to restrict food exports and to maintain the integrity of international supply chains to ensure the efficient distribution of food.

“The prosperity of the Australian agricultural industry depends on a free, open and rules-based global trading system,” Ms Simson said.

“With about two thirds of Australia’s farm produce exported and Australian farmers among the least subsidised in the world, it is important that our Federal Government continues to seek new market access for our farmers.

“The NFF continues to work towards a target of a 5% reduction in the average tariff faced by agricultural exports by 2030 and a 50% reduction in agricultural exports experiencing non-tariff barriers by the same year.”


Cairns Group Farm Leaders

The Cairns Group is a coalition of 19 agricultural exporting countries that work together to advance the liberalisation of agricultural trade.

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders Statement is available here.
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