SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA — Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on Sept. 9 concluded the 36th Cairns Group (CG) Ministerial Meeting where members assessed the ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO )Doha Round negotiations on agriculture and other issues that impact trade, with the objective of fostering a more open agricultural trading system. For the first time, CG members discussed how innovation and rules-based trade rooted in sound science can help open up markets and meet global food security objectives.

“Hosting the Cairns Group was an opportunity for Canada to drive a strong agenda to strengthen international agricultural trade for the benefit of Canadian farmers,” said Minister Ritz. “Once again, Canada is taking a leading role in agricultural trade relations by advocating for trade based on rules and sound science which will ensure a stronger economy here at home and around the world.”

While remaining committed to the multilateral process of the WTO and seeking an ambitious and balanced outcome to the Doha Round, Canada, along with the CG, expressed deep concern about the current state of the WTO Doha negotiations and called for a realistic path forward on trade liberalization and a more predictable trading system. The next WTO ministerial meeting planned for December will be an opportunity to assess the current situation and to develop a work plan in co-operation with other WTO members.

The CG also welcomed the government of Canada’s domestic decision to reform its single desk marketing system for trade in wheat, durum and barley. On the margins of the Cairns Group meetings, Ritz also had the opportunity to speak with Australian Trade Minister Dr. Craig Emerson specifically about the growth potential and economic opportunities available to grain farmers when they have the right to choose how to market their grain.

“Following a remarkably smooth transition to an open market, our economy and farming businesses, both large and small, have benefited from an open grain market,” said Australian Trade Minister Dr. Craig Emerson. “For example, in the very first year after deregulation of Australia’s single desk, our grain farmers exported to more than double the number of markets.”

Ritz underlined the importance to adapt trade regulations to the growing, innovative agriculture sector. Canada strongly supports innovation in agriculture, which will help farmers continue to produce high quality and quantity of food stuffs and help achieve our global food security objectives. During the conference, Ritz pledged to continue to lead discussions with the international community on the effective management of unintended low-level presence of genetically modified materials in agricultural imports.

Ritz also met with his counterpart from Morocco, Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch, to discuss the benefits that a future Free Trade Agreement will bring to farmers from both countries. Ministers agreed that the first round of negotiations will take place the week of Oct. 11 in Ottawa.

“We are moving ahead with free trade negotiations with Morocco to protect and strengthen the financial security of hardworking Canadians," said the Honorable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. “A free trade agreement with Morocco would be Canada's first with an African country, and would serve as a gateway to opportunities for Canadian businesses in key areas such as agriculture, manufacturing and service industries in Mediterranean and North African markets.”