Tuesday, March 23, 2004


The Cairns Group has agreed to work with the G20. This is what we should have been doing all along.

If none of the above made any sense: the Cairns Group is "our" trade club. It consists of major agricultural exporters (like Australia, Canada, and Brazil - but not the US) who favour trade liberalisation in agriculture. The G20 is the group of poorer countries who revolted at last year's WTO talks in Cancun and demanded that the wealthy nations finally honour their promises on - you guessed it - trade liberalisation in agriculture. As you can see, there's some obvious common ground there, and commentators at the time were surprised that the Cairns Group hadn't immediately backed the G20 - especially since there's so much overlap between the groups. Now it seems that the Cairn's Group's poorer members have finally managed to drag the wealthier ones around to supporting them.

If free trade is to have any real meaning and effectiveness, it must be conducted on fair terms. The current system - where the first world forces the third to open their markets, but refuses to reciprocate - makes a mockery of the term. It's unjust, and one of the chief impediments to poor countries doing anything to better their prospects. So it's a Good Thing that we are finally backing the poor and helping to change this.

Unfortunately, judging by what happened last time, making real progress may be difficult.