The Cairns group (or in full Cairns Group of Fair Trading Nations) is an international organization composed mainly of countries that profit from the export of agricultural products. It is currently composed of the following nineteen members scattered across five continents : Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Uruguay, and Vietnam . It is said that the members of the organization possess over 25 percent of the global export market for agricultural goods. The coalition's main goal is to liberalize trade as much as possible, primarily in the agricultural sphere. Several reforms proposed by the Cairn group aim to encourage countries to take a less nationalistic approach to trade, making it free and fair. Through these reforms, they strive for unity despite cultural, linguistic and geographical differences.
The Cairn group was founded in Australia in 1986, just before the World Trade Organization Uruguay Round of negotiations. The formation of the coalition was initiated by the Australian government seeking a way to liberalize world trade. Australian officials invited representatives of fourteen very diverse countries to the joint session, which resulted in the group's formation (later number of members of the group raised to nineteen). The group adopted the name after the city in which the deliberations took place, Cairns. Australia, as the initiator of the creation of the organization and host of the first meeting, took over the informal role of the association's leader and this state of affairs continues to this day. The Cairns group from the very beginning of its existence, during the WTO Uruguay Round, had an important role. Its liberal views on agricultural exports have revolutionized the countries' approach to trade. Their mediator role in disputes between the United States and the European Union also proved to be invaluable. Also during the next WTO Doha Round negotiations, the group continued its efforts to make global exports free and fair by implementing its Vision Statement. The international success of the Cairns group is demonstrated by the fact that the well-known think-tank, The Institute of Economic Affairs in 2018 said that Britain should join the organization as soon as possible.
Since its creation, the Cairns group has been guided in its negotiations by three main objectives related to the export of agricultural products (the so-called Vision Statement) :
- removal of tariff escalation – tariff barriers are government policies that restrict free trade by imposing high taxes. They are very dangerous for underdeveloped countries. On its way to liberalizing the export of agricultural products, the Cairns group is trying to remove tariff barriers imposed by many countries.
- the elimination of all trade-distorting domestic subsidies
- the elimination of export subsidies and clear rules to prevent circumvention of export subsidy commitments
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- Laborde D., Martin W., 2013, p.8
- Abjorensen N., Docherty J., 2014, p.87
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- Laborde D., Martin W. (2013), Agricultural Trade : What matters in Doha Round?, Intl Food Policy Res Inst, Washington
- Narlikar A. (2005), International Trade and Developing Countries: Bargaining Coalitions in the GATT & WTO, Taylor & Francis, New York
- University of Calgary (2005), Trade Negotiations in Agriculture : A Future Common Agenda for Brazil and Canada?, University of Calgary Press, Calgary
Author: Kinga Więcek